The UVic Writer's Guide


An oxymoron is a type of paradox that combines two terms ordinarily seen as opposites, such as Milton's description of God in Paradise Lost as "Dark with excessive bright." The oxymoron was a common form of Petrarchan conceit.

When he introduced the word "maturity" to the English language, Sir Thomas Elyot explained its meaning in a traditional oxymoron:

"The Greeks in a proverb do express it properly in two words, which I can none otherwise interpret in English, but `speed thee slowly' " (1545).

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995