Oxymoron and hyperbole

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that uses two contradictory ideas. The effect is often paradoxical and leaves a powerful impact on the reader / listener. Better still, an oxymoron can sometimes add a whole new layer of meaning to the core concept. Here are some examples of common oxymora in English. (Oxymora is the plural form of oxymoron.)

Cruel kindness

The cruel kindness of a surgeon’s knife

Deafening silence

Deafening silence prevailed between the two.

Conspicuous by absence

Her brothers were conspicuous by their absence at her wedding.


Bitter-sweet memories of my past still haunt me.

Make haste slowly.

Pseudo Oxymorons

Note that in an oxymoron, the contradiction is intentional. Sometimes we unintentionally put two contradictory ideas together. This isn’t exactly an oxymoron. Examples are given below:

Pretty ugly

She is pretty ugly.


The hyperbole is another figure of speech. It makes use of exaggeration to leave a strong impact on the reader. The hyperbole is frequently used to create a humorous effect. Some common examples are:

I have warned you a million times. (Much more powerful than ‘I have warned you many times.’)

Her brain is the size of a pie. (= She has too little intelligence.)

I am so hungry I could eat a horse.

We have truckloads of money in the bank. (= We have got lots and lots of money.)

My car goes faster than lightning.