Oxymoron examples|11 examples in Poetry

Oxymoron is a literary figure of speech in which two opposite words are combined to create some special effect. An ‘Oxymoron’ is the association of pairing words having conflicting meanings but is logically true. Here the readers will find oxymoron examples and 11 examples in poetry.

Origin of Oxymoron

Originated from the Greek word ‘oxumōron’. It was first known used in mid 17th century.


A literary figure of speech in which two opposite words are combined to create some special effect. An ‘Oxymoron’ is the association of pairing words having conflicting meanings but is logically true.

‘Oxymoron’ is used by the writers to create rhetorical impact and humor in their work. Sometimes, it is used to reveal a deeper truth in a story. It is also used to make text suggestive.

Function of Oxymoron:

Oxymorons are useful in the English language as they create effective titles of the text, add dramatic effect, and gain a comic effect. This literary device is used in our daily conversation to show wit and add aroma to a speech.

Oxymoron Examples:

Following are the common oxymoron examples:

  • There is love hate relationship developing between two of them.
  • My boss was unkindly kind to me.
  • He lives a life of active idleness.
  • He is the wisest fool in the country.
  • The poor are condemned to a living death.
  • The comedian was seriously funny.
  • You have the original copy of this text.
  • Her new boyfriend is beautiful ugly.
  • You are only the rich poor in this town.
  • He is suffering a sweet sorrow of his brother departure.
  • He is noble cruel person.
  • She told me an open secret of her marriage.
  • He is an educated illiterate farmer.

Examples of Oxymoron in Poetry:

“London” by William Blake

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

Here the two words, marriage and hearse have been used side by side which is example of oxymoron.

The Tollund Man by Seamus Heaney

Something of his sad freedom

‘Sad’ and ‘freedom’ are two contradictory words which have been used collectively in a line.

The Toome Road by Seamus Heaney

O charioteers, above your dormant guns,

Here the guns have been called dormant which is example of oxymoron.

Lapis Lazuli by William Butler Yeats

One asks for mournful melodies

The melody on mourn event does not appeal to mind but by using this oxymoron, the writer has created comic effect for his readers.

Song: Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go by John Donne

When thou weep’st, unkindly kind

Here the use of ‘unkindly’ ‘kind’ is example of oxymoron.

The Ecstasy by John Donne

Our eyes upon one double string

The comparison of ‘one’ and ‘double’ is contradictory and has been set together. Although the words are not apparently appropriate but the same are logically true.

The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin

The secret like a happy funeral

The funeral is happy. The two opposite words used in this line do not come true, but the purpose of writing these words is some time to reveal the hidden truth or convey the deep meaning; here has been done in this line when the writer compares the secret to a happy funeral.

A Prayer for My Daughter by William Butler Yeats

Out of the murderous innocence of the sea

Here the deep meaning of the shape of dangerous sea water has been discussed. The poet considered the sea as murderous innocence. He does not directly blame the sea for its criminal act but considers it a ‘murderous innocence,’ an example of an oxymoron.

Paradise Lost by Milton

No light, but rather darkness visible

Here the visibility of darkness has been discussed which otherwise does not seems possible.

The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith

Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired
The toiling pleasure sickens into pain

“Essay on Man” by Pope

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great.

Examples from Dramas:

Romeo and Juliet by (William Shakespeare)

i. Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Here the in the above lines, the use of words ‘sweet’ and ‘sorrow’ come together with conflicting meaning.

ii. 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!

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Second witch: When the battle’s lost and won

Three witches: Fair is foul, and foul is fair

Macbeth: So foul and fair a day, I have not seen

Banquo: Why do you start and seem to fear Things that do sound
so fair?

Lady Macbeth: Would’t not play false, And yet would’t wrongly win.

Difference between Paradox and Oxymoron

‘Paradox’ is a statement that, on the face, seems illogical yet is found to be true when scanned. It is a common element in concise writing. For example, the child is the father of the man. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” written by Keats where poet said, ‘heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.”

‘Oxymoron’ is a figure of speech that shows the two words or lines of opposite significance together to create the effect—for example, cruel kindness, small crowd, living history, etc.

Further Reading:

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