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Irony vs. Oxymoron: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Irony involves a contrast between expectation and reality, often in a humorous or poignant way, while an oxymoron is a figure of speech combining contradictory terms.
Irony vs. Oxymoron

Key Differences

Irony is a literary and rhetorical device where there is a stark contrast between what is expected and what actually occurs or is meant. It often highlights the absurdities or contradictions in situations. An oxymoron, on the other hand, is a specific type of phrase where two contradictory words are placed together for effect, like "bitter sweet."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023
There are different types of irony, such as situational irony, where events turn out differently from what was expected, and verbal irony, where what is said is the opposite of what is meant. In contrast, an oxymoron always involves the use of two contradictory terms together, creating a paradoxical effect.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023
Irony can be used to convey a deeper level of meaning or to criticize by highlighting the discrepancy between what is said or expected and what actually happens. An oxymoron, however, is more about playing with language to evoke a new meaning or to emphasize a complex or contradictory nature of something.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023
Examples of irony include a fire station burning down, or someone saying "What a beautiful day" during a storm, which is verbally ironic. Examples of an oxymoron include phrases like "deafening silence" or "jumbo shrimp," where the juxtaposed words create a novel concept.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023
In literature, irony is often used for satirical or comedic effect, or to add depth to a character or situation. Oxymorons are used to create an intriguing contradiction that can make the reader think or add poetic flavor to the text.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Contrast between expectation and reality.
A combination of contradictory terms.
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Usage

In speech, literature, situations.
Mainly in speech and writing.
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Purpose

To criticize, satirize, or create humor.
To emphasize complexity or paradox.
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Types

Situational, verbal, dramatic.
Not categorized into types.
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Example

Saying "Great weather!" on a rainy day.
The phrase "clearly confused."
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Irony and Oxymoron Definitions

Irony

The use of words to express something other than, and especially the opposite of, the literal meaning.
What a pleasant day, he said, as it poured rain.
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Oxymoron

A rhetorical device used to draw attention to a particular statement or situation.
Deafening silence dramatically describes a very quiet room.
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Irony

Dramatic irony, where the audience knows something that the characters do not.
In a play, the audience knows the character’s friend is deceiving him, but he does not.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Oxymoron

A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.
The term bittersweet describes conflicting feelings.
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Irony

A situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems the opposite of what you expected.
It's irony that a traffic jam occurred on the way to a conference about urban mobility.
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Oxymoron

A stylistic literary device that can create a dramatic effect.
Cruel kindness in a poem to highlight conflicting emotions.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Irony

A literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions is clear to the audience but unknown to the character.
In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the audience knows Juliet is alive, but Romeo does not.
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Oxymoron

A combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings.
Open secret is an oxymoron used in everyday language.
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Irony

A state of affairs or event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.
The irony of a dietitian who loves fast food.
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Oxymoron

A paradoxical juxtaposition of words that seem contradictory but reveal a hidden truth.
Living death in literature to describe a lifeless existence.
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Irony

The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Oxymoron

A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, as in a deafening silence and a mournful optimist.
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Oct 19, 2023

Irony

An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning
"the embodiment of the waspish don, from his Oxbridge tweeds to the bone-dry ironies of his speech and prose" (Ron Rosenbaum).
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Oxymoron

(rhetoric) A figure of speech in which two words or phrases with opposing meanings are used together intentionally for effect.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Irony

Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs
"Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated" (Richard Kain).
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Oct 19, 2023

Oxymoron

A contradiction in terms.
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Irony

An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity
The ironies of fate. See Usage Note at ironic.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Oxymoron

A figure in which an epithet of a contrary signification is added to a word; e. g., cruel kindness; laborious idleness.
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Oct 19, 2023

Irony

Dramatic irony.
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Oct 19, 2023

Oxymoron

Conjoining contradictory terms (as in `deafening silence')
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Irony

Socratic irony.
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Irony

(rhetoric) The quality of a statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean something different from, or the opposite of, what is written literally; the use of words expressing something other than their literal intention, often in a humorous context.
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Oct 19, 2023

Irony

(countable) An ironic statement.
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Irony

Dramatic irony: a theatrical effect in which the meaning of a situation, or some incongruity in the plot, is understood by the audience, but not by the characters in the play.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Irony

Socratic irony: ignorance feigned for the purpose of confounding or provoking an antagonist.
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Irony

(informal){{cite-journal
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Irony

Of or pertaining to the metal iron.
The food had an irony taste to it.
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Irony

Made or consisting of iron; partaking of iron; iron; as, irony chains; irony particles; - In this sense iron is the more common term.
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Oct 19, 2023

Irony

Resembling iron in taste, hardness, or other physical property.
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Irony

Dissimulation; ignorance feigned for the purpose of confounding or provoking an antagonist.
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Irony

A sort of humor, ridicule, or light sarcasm, which adopts a mode of speech the meaning of which is contrary to the literal sense of the words.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Irony

Witty language used to convey insults or scorn;
He used sarcasm to upset his opponent
Irony is wasted on the stupid
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own
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Shumaila Saeed
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Irony

Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs;
The irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated
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Shumaila Saeed
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Irony

A trope that involves incongruity between what is expected and what occurs
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is an oxymoron primarily used for?

To combine contradictory terms for a special effect.
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Nov 14, 2023

Can irony be intentional or unintentional?

Yes, it can be both.
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What is an oxymoron?

An oxymoron is a figure of speech combining contradictory terms.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Can irony be verbal?

Yes, like saying "Great weather!" during a storm.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023

What is irony?

Irony is when there's a contrast between expectations and reality.
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Is dramatic irony different from verbal irony?

Yes, dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something characters don’t.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Is irony always obvious?

No, sometimes it can be subtle.
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Can an oxymoron be a single word?

Rarely. It's usually a two-word phrase.
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What is the main function of irony?

To highlight a contrast between expectations and reality.
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Are oxymorons always intentional?

Yes, they are a deliberate use of language.
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Can irony be situational?

Yes, like a fire station burning down.
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Is 'bittersweet' an oxymoron?

Yes, as it combines opposite ideas of 'bitter' and 'sweet'.
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Can irony be found in literature?

Yes, it's a common literary device.
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Are all contradictions ironic?

No, irony specifically involves an unexpected outcome or meaning.
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Are all oxymorons intentional?

Typically, yes, as they're used for effect.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Is 'deafening silence' an oxymoron?

Yes, it combines contradictory concepts of sound and silence.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023

Is oxymoron used in poetry?

Yes, poets often use oxymorons for dramatic effect.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Can irony be unintentional?

Yes, especially in situational irony.
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Can irony be humorous?

Yes, it's often used in sarcasm or comedic contexts.
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Does an oxymoron always make sense?

It makes sense in a figurative, rather than literal, way.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 14, 2023

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Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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