Difference Between Antithesis and Oxymoron

Main Difference – Antithesis vs Oxymoron

Antithesis and oxymoron are two literary devices that present two contradictory words or concepts. The main difference between antithesis and oxymoron is that an antithesis involves apparently contradictory ideas, concepts within a balanced grammatical structure whereas an oxymoron is the combination of seemingly contradictory terms.

What is Antithesis

An antithesis is a figure of speech involving a seeming contradiction of ideas, words, clauses, or sentences within a balanced grammatical structure. This combination of opposite ideas and balanced structure highlights the contrast. Some examples of antithesis include:

“Setting foot on the moon may be a small step for a man but a giant step for mankind.”– Neil Armstrong

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” –Abraham Lincoln

Examples of Antithesis in Literature

“To be, or not to be, that is the question—

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer” – Shakespeare’s Hamlet

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,… “- Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities

“He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.” – Heller’s Catch-22Difference Between Antithesis and Oxymoron

What is Oxymoron

Oxymoron is a literary device containing apparently contradictory terms. The term oxymoron comes from Ancient Greek word ‘oxumoron’, made of oxus, meaning “sharp” and moros, meaning “dull”. Therefore, the term itself is an oxymoron.

Common oxymoron phrases and words include a noun preceded by an adjective. Some examples of common oxymorons include deafening silence, wise fool, living death, irregular pattern, original copy, cruel kindness, controlled chaos, old news tragic comedy, etc.

Examples of Oxymorons in Literature

“Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!

O anything, of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!”

– Shakespeare “Romeo and Juliet”

“The bookful blockhead ignorantly read,

With loads of learned lumber in his head,”

– Alexander Pope’s “Essays of Criticism”

“A dungeon horrible, on all sides round

As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames

No light, but rather darkness visible”

-John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

Main Difference - Antithesis vs Oxymoron

Orderly Chaos

Difference Between Antithesis and Oxymoron


Antithesis is a literary device in which an opposition or contrast of ideas is expressed using a parallel grammatical structure.

Oxymoron is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.


Antithesis contains two opposite words, clauses, sentences or concepts.

Oxymoron contains two opposite words.

Word Order

In an Antithesis, the opposite words or antonyms are not always together.

In an Oxymoron, the opposite words or antonyms can be noted together.

Difference Between Antithesis and Oxymoron- infographic

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