Difference Between Oxymoron and Paradox (With Table)

Oxymoron and Paradox are terms that are frequently used when we talk about ideas that contradict each other. However, even though individuals often confuse these terms for one another because both the terms signify the same concept of contradictory ideas, the two terms are dissimilar and are supposed to be used differently.

Oxymoron vs Paradox

The difference between an oxymoron and a paradox is that an oxymoron is a figure of speech that not only combines a set of two or more terms that contradict each other in a single expression but also somehow gives meaning and makes complete sense when combined whereas a paradox consists of a statement, group of statements or quotes that presents an impossible situation which initiates a contradiction to our logical thinking while conveying a fundamental truth.

An oxymoron is a dramatic figure of speech that consists of an amalgamation of two or three terms that have completely different meanings and contradict each other. Oxymoron often consists of two opposite words that bounce off each other to bring about a point, usually playfully and amusingly.

A paradox often creates a seemingly contradicting circumstance that cannot happen, as a sentence can’t be right and wrong at the same time. In literature, a paradox helps to draw the reader’s attention because they are considered captivating brain teasers that add additional meaning to the words. This significantly helps them play an essential role in literature and day-to-day life.


Comparison Table Between Oxymoron and Paradox (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of comparisonOxymoronParadox
MeaningAn Oxymoron is the integration of words that are opposite to each other to structure a unique word or phrase. For example: dark light.A paradox is a seemingly self-contradictory phrase, a sentence or group of sentences that isn’t true but likewise isn’t false either. For example: all humans are equal, but some humans are considered more equal than others.
PurposeAn Oxymoron helps to create a dramatic and ironical effect in a passage.A paradox is entertaining brain teasers which gives the audience time to be innovative and creative.
EtymologyAn oxymoron was instituted in the mid 17th century and was derived from the Greek word oxys and moros.A paradox was instituted in the mid 16th century and was derived from the Greek word paradoxon.
ConceptAn oxymoron can be framed with only two or three words that are different from each other.A paradox can compromise of either a whole statement or an entire paragraph.
ConnectionAn oxymoron is the condensed version of a paradox.A paradox can be formed using an oxymoron.


What is Oxymoron?

Oxymoron refers to the combination of terms that create a unique phrase, word, or words that contradict each other. The word oxymoron was derived from the Greek word “oxys” meaning sharp and “moros” meaning dull. Oxymoron may seem nonsensical at times but they also make perfect sense in literature. For example: This joke was seriously ridiculous. Usually, oxymoron words or phrases include a noun which is followed by an adjective. For example: amazingly delicious, etc.

The purpose of oxymorons in literature is that oxymorons create a dramatic effect in the passage by adding two words that have completely different meanings. Oxymoron helps in adding a playful tone to writing and is also said to give the passage or sentence a deeper meaning and adds irony to the sentence as it gives the reader time to think over the context in a different light. For instance, words like a giant dwarf or a bankrupt millionaire make perfect sense together even though they are opposite words.

There are various novels where oxymorons are consistently used. Some examples of oxymoron used in literature can be ‘Romeo and Juliet’ written by William Shakespeare where Shakespeare uses the phrase “parting is such a sweet sorrow’ which refers to when Romeo is inflicting pain of unrequited love. Another example can be taken from the novel ‘Jane Eyre’ written by Charlotte Bronte where St. John uses the phrase “delicious poison” to portray his feelings for Rosamond Oliver.


What is Paradox?

A paradox is a group of sentences which may contradict each other yet also lays out an inherent truth. The word paradox has been derived from the Greek word “paradoxon” meaning perceived opinion. Although the term paradox appears to sound very reasonable, they don’t seem to be entirely illogical. For example: Be cruel to be kind. Paradox also gives the readers time to think about the context creatively and imaginatively.

The purpose of a paradox in English literature is that a paradox helps in finding the unique meaning of a specific event. It makes the readers consider the event and this in turn helps readers to comprehend the details of the passage or sentence. Since the paradox has a contradictory nature, the writers can make a particular statement and comment about what they understood from it.

Many other novels use paradoxes consistently and effectively, like for instance, Animal Farm written by George Orwell, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, and so on. Some of the examples of paradox in English literature are shown in the novel ‘Dystopian’ written by George Orwell. In the following novel, there were many paradox’s used and the main paradox used was ‘War is peace’ and ‘freedom is slavery’. Here, George Orwell clearly shows the dominance of the party to reinforce dystopia by the use of paradoxes.

Main Differences Between Oxymoron and Paradox

  • An oxymoron is a composition of two or more words that are different from each other, to form a new or distinctive word. For example: living dead. A paradox is a statement or a group of contradictory statements, but when investigated can prove to have a deeper meaning. For example: your friend’s enemy is also your enemy.
  • The main purpose of an oxymoron is that the two words that contradict each other create a dramatic and ironic effect in the passage or sentence. The main purpose of a paradox is that it allows the readers to stop and think, which in turn allows them to give additional meaning to the context.
  • An oxymoron was derived from the Ancient Greek word ‘oxys’ meaning sharp and ‘moros’ meaning dull. An oxymoron was first instituted way back in the mid 17th century. A paradox was derived from the Greek word ‘paradoxon’ meaning opinion and was first instituted way back in the mid 16th century.
  • An oxymoron has the basic concept of forming distinctive words with the help of two or three words that are opposite to each other. The basic concept of a paradox consists of either a whole sentence or a paragraph since a paradox is a description of a phrase.
  • Since an oxymoron is formed from two opposite words, it is considered to be the shorter version of a paradox. Since a paradox compromises of a whole sentence, an oxymoron can be used to make a paradox.



Generally, individuals notice only a minor dissimilarity between the two terms, oxymoron, and paradox, because both these terms are identical literary techniques that use presumably contradictory ideas. However, this article highlights the main features between the two terms to help make it easier for individuals to identify the major dissimilarity that distinguishes the two terms from one another.

It discusses how the best way to acknowledge if a figure of speech is an oxymoron or a paradox is to look at whether they come in two or three words or a whole sentence. Also, an oxymoron would be a combination of two or three terms that contradict each other and where the principal term and the subsequent term used will have entirely different meanings to create a dramatic effect (for instance, terms like icy-hot, bittersweet, autopilot, and so on are some examples of an oxymoron).

Whereas a paradox would include many words, a statement, or even an entire paragraph, to lead to a situation that is contradictory to reveal an unforeseen meaning or hidden truth (for instance, sentences like Truth is honey, which is bitter is an example of a paradox).