If a waiter served you a whole fish and a scoop of chocolate ice cream on the same plate, your surprise might be caused by the juxtaposition, or the side-by-side contrast, of the two foods.

Any time unlike things bump up against each other, you can describe it as a juxtaposition. Imagine a funeral mourner telling jokes graveside, and you get the idea — the juxtaposition in this case is between grief and humor. Juxtaposition of two contrasting items is often done deliberately in writing, music, or art — in order to highlight their differences.

Definitions of juxtaposition

n the act of positioning close together (or side by side)

“it is the result of the juxtaposition of contrasting colors”
apposition, collocation
the careful juxtaposition of shapes in a pattern
Type of:
emplacement, locating, location, placement, position, positioning
the act of putting something in a certain place

n a side-by-side position

Type of:
place, position
the particular portion of space occupied by something

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.