English Literature



Romeo and Juliet


What is an oxymoron and where is it used?

3 years ago


2 Replies




Ola Grant

2 Answers

Wendy E

An oxymoron deliberately combines two words or ideas, that contradict one another, for the purpose of revealing a deeper meaning. For example, when Juliet says to Romeo that, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’, Shakespeare has captured the deeper meaning of the simultaneous pain and joy of departing. He is trying to communicate that being separated from a loved one is painful but, because it is so painful, it reminds you of your love and joy.

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Hi Ola,

An oxymoron is a comparison of opposites or words which seem to contradict each other grouped together e.g. (both from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:

hot ice

sweet sorrow

Oxymorons tend to have the effect of intensifying emotion, or demonstrating conflict or absurdity. As with all literary effects, it's the feeling or idea they produce which matters most!

They are surprisingly common in everyday speech e.g.:

awfully nice

friendly fight

You might even say a 'frenemy' is an oxymoron!

Here is a list of surprisingly funny oxymorons, including a good cartoon which makes it clear: 101 Awfully Good Examples of Oxymorons - angmohdan.com

If you're interested in taking this deeper, then you could consider how oxymorons relate to paradox: Oxymoron vs. Paradox: What Is the Difference? (+ Examples) (poetrysoc.com)

Hope that helps!

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