December 1, 2016


Paradox is a statement, proposition, or situation that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact is or may be true.



The English term paradox was borrowed during the mid-16th century from the Late Latin noun paradoxum, which the Latin speakers adopted from the Greek adjective paradoxos meaning "contrary to expectation" which was combined from Greek prefix para- "contrary to" + doxa "opinion," the latter derived from dokein "to appear, to seem, to think, to accept".

Origin of Paradox


adj. Paradoxical
adv. Paradoxically


Paradox is a literary device wherein two seemingly contrasting ideas or statements are juxtaposed. A paradox may seem like a self-contradictory, silly statement at first, but upon further analysis, it will reveal a latent truth. Therefore, paradox consists of two levels:
  1. Basic/surface level: the function of surface level is to conceal the rational meaning of a statement.
  2. Higher/deeper level: the function of higher level is to reveal the actual truth behind a statement.
Thus paradox is understood when the surface meaning is distinguished from its deeper level, for example:

“Failure is the pillar of success.”

In the above sentence the surface meaning appears self-contradictory and silly as generally failure means lack of success. However, when we make a deeper analysis we find that failure helps us to determine whether we are moving in the right direction for success.


  1. Paradox helps develop reader's creativity by compelling them to ponder over a subject in an innovative way.
  2. Paradox is employed to create unconventional imagery.
  3. Authors use paradox to draw reader's attention.
  4. Paradox makes the text more interesting.
  5. Paradoxical statements often sum up the main ideas of the work.


Paradoxes could be categorized into the following ways:
  1. Rhetorical Paradox: rhetorical paradox is a seemingly contrasting comment or statement made by a character. A well-known example of paradox appears in George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945):
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
  1. Situational Paradox: situational paradox is a situation or circumstance that is contradictory. The following passage from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 (1961) consists of an instance of situational paradox:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”

Paradox vs. Oxymoron

Sl. # Paradox Oxymoron
Paradox may consist of a sentence or even a group of sentences. Oxymoron is a combination of two contradictory or opposite words.
Paradox refers to actual conditions or concepts which appear to present an impossible situation. Oxymoron refers to word combinations which are contradictory.
Paradox arrests attention and provokes innovative thought. Oxymoron creates a dramatic effect.
Paradox is not solely a witty or amusing statement, often it can prove to be very revealing about human nature and the way that we speak. Oxymoron is just the juxtaposition of two words for amusement.
Paradox can be created using an oxymoron. Oxymoron can be used to create a paradox.






“Difference Between Paradox and Oxymoron.” Pediaa.Com. 2016. Pediaa.Com. 4 November 2016

“Examples of Paradox.” Your Dictionary. 2016. LoveToKnow, Corp. 4 November 2016

“Paradox.” 2016. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 November 2016
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“Paradox.” Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 4 November 2016

Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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