Difference Between Paradox and Oxymoron

Main Difference – Paradox vs Oxymoron

Paradox and Oxymoron are both similar literary devices that use seemingly contradictory things. Paradox is the juxtaposition of seemingly contradictory ideas to reveal a hidden or unexpected truth. Oxymoron is the combination of two opposite words to create a dramatic effect. This is the main difference between paradox and oxymoron.

What is Paradox

Paradox is a literary device where some seemingly contrasting ideas are juxtaposed, in order to reveal a hidden or unexpected truth. A paradox may seem like a self-contradictory, silly statement at first, but upon further analysis, it will reveal a latent truth.

A paradox can be used to make readers think about something in an innovative way. It can be also used to present an idea that is contrary to accepted, traditional concepts.

Some examples of famous paradoxes include,

Less is more

Be cruel to be kind

Your enemy’s enemy is your friend.

“I can resist anything but temptation.”– Oscar Wilde

“It’s weird not to be weird.” – John Lennon

In literature, paradoxes are used to draw attention and incite fresh thought. Paradoxes also add another layer to the meaning of the words. Paradoxes can be categorized as situational or rhetoric. A rhetorical paradox is a seemingly contrasting comment or statement made by a character whereas situational paradox is a situation or circumstance that is contradictory.

Some examples of rhetorical paradoxes include:

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”

“Child is father of the man.”

 William Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”,

Here is a situational paradox from the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”Difference Between  Paradox and Oxymoron-

What is Oxymoron

Oxymoron is the use of two contradictory words together. The term oxymoron itself is an oxymoron; it comes from Ancient Greek word ‘oxumoron’, made of oxus, meaning “sharp” and moros, meaning “dull”.

Common oxymoron phrases and words include a noun preceded by an adjective. For example, wise fool, cruel kindness, living death, irregular pattern, deafening silence, original copy, controlled chaos, etc.

Examples of Oxymorons in Literature

“And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.”

-Tennyson’s Idylls of the King

“O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!

Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms”

-Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

 “Down the close darkening lanes, they sang their way

To the siding-shed,

And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

– Wilfred Owen’s The Send-OffDifference Between Paradox and Oxymoron

Difference Between Paradox and Oxymoron


Paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement which may prove to be well founded or true upon further analysis.

Oxymoron is apparently contradictory terms that appear in conjunction.


Paradox arrests attention and provokes innovative thought.

Oxymoron creates a dramatic effect.


Paradox can be created using an oxymoron.

Oxymoron can be used to create a paradox.Difference Between Paradox and Oxymoron- infographic

Image Courtesy:

“Paradox” by Brett Jordan (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

“Oxymoron” by Quinn Dombrowski (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

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