What Is an Oxymoron? Learn About the Differences Between Oxymoron and Paradox With Examples

What is an Oxymoron?

By definition, an oxymoron is a figure of speech where one or two contradictory words appear in conjunction with each other. Oxymorons may be used for dramatic effect, or to increase tones and moods of lightheartedness. This contradiction is often confused with paradox, which is similar but different.

What is a Paradox?

A paradox, like an oxymoron, features contradictory terms that appear right next to each other. A paradox expands to include ideas and themes that may contradict one another as well. The key distinction between oxymoron and paradox is that when investigated, ​a paradox generally contains some level of truth and plausibility to its existence.​ It is usually presented in longer sentences and twists logic as well as words.

Note

An example of a paradox in a sentence you often hear is, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". This sentence features contradicting and confusing ideas, but when dissected can make sense to the reader and hold truth within it.

What are 3 examples of oxymoron in literature?

1) ​Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet -​ Within this play an oxymoron example can be found when Juliet says, "Good night, good night! Parting is such ​sweet sorrow​ / That I shall say good night till it be morrow."

2) ​John Legends's "All of Me"​ - in this song, he professes his love for the subject of his song within the lines: "Give your all to me / I'll give my all to you / You're ​my end and my beginning​ / Even ​when I lose I'm winning​".

3) ​Simon and Garfunkel's​ ​"The Sound of Silence"​ - has an oxymoron sitting in the title of the song, which carries over to the rest of the lyrics as well.

When should I use an oxymoron in a sentence?

Oxymoron's are most often used in a sentence to deliver a specific and special effect to the reader. They can:

  • Create Drama​ - by exaggerating or emphasizing a conflict between words and ideas. By pairing two contrasting words and ideas right next to each other, they reinforce the greater idea presented by the writer.
  • Reveal a Deeper Meaning​ - Using an oxymoron to express an idea introduces complexity to the reader. By doing this, the reader must contemplate the terms presented to them more intensely, which often reveals a deeper meaning and motivation from the writer.
  • Introduce a tone -​ of playfulness and lightheartedness to whatever you may be writing, and are a useful tool for establishing a particular mood as well.

Note

For example, one could say "I distinctly remember forgetting that" to enhance the fact that they forgot something. Or, "When I said that, there was a deafening silence" to exaggerate the intensity of the silence that came after someone spoke.

What are examples of an oxymoron and oxymoron antonyms?

Oxymoron's are identifiable when two words that appear next to each other are the opposite of one another, or contradict themselves. Examples include:

  • Virtual Reality
  • Seriously Funny
  • Only Option
  • Small Crowd
  • Passive Agressive
  • Act Natural
  • Living Dead
  • Bittersweet
  • Pretty Ugly
  • Working Vacation
  • Silent Scream
  • Old News
  • Civil War
  • Negative Income
  • Loud Whisper
  • Icy Hot
  • Crash Landing
  • Minor Crisis
  • Soft Rock
  • Student Teacher
  • Awfully Good

However, the opposite of an oxymoron, known as a ​tautology​, is when two words that mean the same thing appear next to each other. A tautology is the repetition of ideas, words and themes close to one another. Some examples of tautology are:

  • 3 am in the morning
  • dead corpse
  • unmarried bachelor
  • new innovation
  • anonymous stranger
  • basic fundamental
  • empty hole