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Oxymoron: Definition & Examples

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Oxymoron Definition: The term oxymoron derives from the Greek word oxymoros which means pointedly foolish. It is a figure of speech wherein opposite words or ideas are intentionally put together to achieve special effects. The meaning of the words combined together is sharply opposite to each other. For example, wise fool, honest thief, cold fire, sick health, clearly confused, pretty ugly, living dead, dark light, sad joy, sweet agony, seriously funny and silent screams are oxymoronic expressions.

Example # 1

There are many splendid examples of oxymoron in English literature, especially in poetry. For example, in Francis Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heavens, the expressions, traitorous trueness and loyal deceit, are examples of oxymoron.

I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.

—Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heavens

Example # 2

Sir Thomas Wyatt’s sonnet, I Find no Peace, contains excellent examples of oxymoron. The whole structure of these lines is based on oxymoron. In the first line, the poet says that he finds no peace, but in that very line, he goes against his statement and says that the war is over. He means that there is peace. That’s why; it is an example of oxymoron. In the second line, the words fear and hope and burn and breeze are oxymoronic expressions. In the third line, the poet says the he flies above the winds, but suddenly he rejects his previous statement and says he cannot fly now. Similarly, in the last line, the poet tells us that he has nothing, but immediately he asserts that he has got everything. Thus, it’s an excellent example of oxymoron in poetry.

I find no peace, and all my war is done;
I fear and hope, I burn and freeze like ice;
I flee above the wind, yet can I not arise;
And nought I have and all the world I season.

— Sir Thomas Wyatt, I Find no Peace

Example # 3

Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, offers an excellent example of oxymoron. The loving hate, heavy lightness, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health and still-waking sleep are oxymoronic expressions.

Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O anything! Of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

In Pope’s poem, An Essay on Man, darkly wise and rudely great are oxymoronic expressions.

KNOW then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:

— Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

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Daniel MemeLegend . 2018-07-13
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121 2 . Reply
Ellie Greenham . 2017-10-25
So, does the oxymoron make the two words juxtaposed? :)
121 2 . Reply
muthukumar arunagiri . 2017-09-16
the lettrs are too small to read
121 2 . Reply
RightAway87 . 2017-04-01
Here's one: Jewish art.
121 2 . Reply
Fire Blaze 7 . 2017-02-08
Hey, to sum oxymoron is it pointy foolish and creates a special effect
121 2 . Reply
Annelyn Alviola . 2017-01-28
thanks for this video I answer some questions in school about oxymoron
121 2 . Reply
i was cool b4 it was cool . 2017-01-16
This could really help on my exams good work man :D
121 2 . Reply
Om Merchant . 2015-12-10
very well done mate!!!!!!!
121 2 . Reply
st jerome . 2015-10-25
Their visions and their words, which spring from their own imaginations – and in many cases, from the spirit of evil – will reveal to you the good things you want to hear. They will soothe you when you need to be soothed, but they will mislead you. They will speak of peace, where there will be no peace – of Truth, when there will be heresy – of plentiful crops, when there will be famine. You will never hear the Truth, for these liars will not want to incur your wrath.
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121 2 . Reply