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Learned borrowing from Latin antinomia + English -y (suffix forming abstract nouns denoting a condition, quality, or state); antinomia is derived from Ancient Greek ἀντινομία (antinomía), from ἀντι- (anti-, prefix meaning ‘against’) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ent- (face; forehead; front)) + νόμος (nómos, custom, usage; law, ordinance) + -ῐ́ᾱ (-íā, suffix forming feminine abstract nouns), with νόμος (nómos) derived from νέμω (némō, to deal out, dispense, distribute) (from Proto-Indo-European *nem- (to distribute; to give; to take)) + -ος (-os, suffix forming nouns indicating actions or their results).[1] The English word may be analysed as anti- (prefix meaning ‘against; opposite of’) +‎ -nomy (suffix indicating a system of laws, rules, or knowledge about a body of a particular field).



antinomy (countable and uncountable, plural antinomies)

  1. (archaic) A contradiction within a law, or between different laws; also, a contradiction between authorities.
  2. (by extension) Any contradiction or paradox.
    Synonym: (archaic, rare) antinome
    • 1645, Robin Jeffs, Fast sermons to Parliament, page 14:
      The Antinomians: These Gospell-truths, these sweet Sermons of Free-grace, that setting up of naked Christ on his Throne, which hath seduced so many thousands of well-meaning souls, do now appear in their own colours, and to any common eye may be seen to be nothing but the grosse Antinomy of the old Libertines.
    1. (specifically, epistemology, logic) In the thought of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804): an apparent contradiction between valid conclusions; a paradox.
      • 1884, Charles Carroll Everett, Fichte’s Science of Knowledge: A Critical Exposition[1], page 12:
        This introduces the antinomy that has followed us through the whole study. The solution of this antinomy is found in making the Not-me, which interrupts self-consciousness, really reflect self-consciousness, by manifesting the nature of the I—in other words, by making it conform to the ideal of the soul.
      • 1991, Vann McGee, Truth, Vagueness, & Paradox: An Essay on the Logic of Truth[2], page 67:
        Of the work that has been done on the liar antinomy, possibly the most profound and certainly the most influential has been that of Tarski

Usage notes[edit]

  • Not to be confused with antimony.
  • As regards sense 2.1 (“apparent contradiction between valid conclusions”), Kant used antinomy in his work Critique of Pure Reason (1781) to speak of two valid conclusions that appeared to contradict each other, but that could be resolved when it was seen that they were from two distinct and exclusive sets. So no paradox exists, only that the inappropriate application of an idea from one set to another causes a seeming paradox.

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  1. ^ Compare “antinomy, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, November 2010; “antinomy, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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