Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Paradox: What is the Difference Between a Paradox and an Oxymoron?

For those of you following along, you probably guessed that today I would write about paradox for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. A discussion of paradox naturally follows a post about oxymoron, which can be found here: O is for Oxymoron.

So, what is a paradox? What is the difference between a paradox and an oxymoron?

A paradox and an oxymoron are similar. A paradox is a statement or event that seems to contradict itself although it is, or can be, true. A paradoxical statement defies intuition.

Although there are no fast rules that distinguish between the two (several sources I referenced for this post consider the words paradox and oxymoron synonyms), there are discernible differences.

A paradox is a statement or even a paragraph that describes a contradiction whereas an oxymoron is a combination of contradictory terms, usually just two words (go here for a list of oxymoron examples).

One of my favorite literary examples of a paradox is from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Sources: Literary terms and definitions, DifferenceBetween.net, CliffNotes.com


  1. You are giving me refresher English and I appreciate it.

  2. I have to agree with K. I'd forgotten the names of the phrases I'm sure I've written since I was in school. lol

  3. I always thought "more unique" was an oxymoron.
    I like your comparison of the word to paradox.

  4. A refresher is always a good thing. It would be interesting to have to take the final exam--no studying--for the toughest class that each of us took back in college. I'm guessing that I'd do quite a bit of stumbling.

    My A-Z Blogging “P” post is right here: http://www.word-nerd-speaks.com/2011/04/pierre-pradervand-gentle-art-of.html

  5. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  6. Interesting. It never really occurred to me that "paradox" and "oxymoron" were similar, but I guess they are.

  7. "And all the children are above average." Or is that just stupidity? :-)

  8. Great explanation, and great example. I'll be able to use the two terms properly now. :)


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