Writing 101: What Is an Oxymoron? Learn About the Differences Between Oxymoron and Paradox With Examples

Written by the MasterClass staff

Last updated: Sep 29, 2021 • 3 min read

An oxymoron is a figure of speech: a creative approach to language that plays with meaning and the use of words in a non-literal sense. This literary device combines words with contradictory definitions to coin a new word or phrase. The incongruity of the resulting statement allows writers to play with language and meaning.

What Is an Oxymoron?

Oxymorons are oppositional words joined to create a unique word or phrase. An oxymoron can seem absurd yet make perfect sense at the same time. For example, the phrase “virtual reality” is formed from contrasting words. The word “oxymoron” is an oxymoron itself, derived from the Greek words “oxys” (meaning “sharp”) and “moros” (meaning “dull”).