Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A figure of speech in which two words with opposing meanings are used together intentionally for effect.
  • n. A contradiction in terms.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In rhetoric, a figure consisting in adding to a word an epithet or qualification apparently contradictory; in general, close connection of two words seemingly opposed to each other (as, cruel kindness; to make haste slowly); an expression made epigrammatic or pointed by seeming self-contradictory.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. conjoining contradictory terms (as in `deafening silence')

Etymologies

Greek oxumōron, from neuter of oxumōros, pointedly foolish : oxus, sharp; see oxygen + mōros, foolish, dull.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From 5th century Latin oxymoron, from Ancient Greek ὀξύς (oxus, "sharp") (English oxy-, as in oxygen) + μωρός (mōros, "dull") (English moron ("stupid person")). Literally “sharp-dull”, itself an oxymoron, hence autological; compare sophomore (literally "wise fool"), influenced by similar analysis. The compound form *ὀξύμωρον (oxumōron) is not found in the extant Greek sources.[2] (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • You spend 50 bucks for a tank of gas just to go hunt and you miss that big one, so how oxymoron is that!

    Best distance to practice shooting a compound bow.

  • 'Early on' petroleum was unrestricted -- a social-positioning free-for-all including crimes such as fraud and violence such as homicide, and all of it called, (in oxymoron disguise) a 'free market.'

    No Snickers bars? Blame Peak Oil (Jack Bog's Blog)

  • Indeed, our little national anthem has inspired VANOC CEO John Furlong to apply for the intellectual property rights to this refrain, a rather strange oxymoron from a man who stood on the shoulders of giants to rip off the official song representing 33 million souls:

    2008 September 26 « Unambiguously Ambidextrous

  • In practice, however, the basic oxymoron is not a very common form of the pataphysical quirk, possibly because we're often able to apply simple transformations to these sort of oxymorons, reinterpret them as metaphoric sense or bad writing rather than nonsense.

    Notes on Strange Fiction: The Pataphysical Quirk

  • Okaayyy – an oxymoron is basically expressing two separate thoughts or ideas that are in direct conflict with each other.

    Waving your flag « BuzzMachine

  • But where he sees Keats stumbling, caught and bewildered in oxymoron, I read a melodious plot: Keats has set up the line up to woo us with the oxymoron Wasserman discerns; then, at the line's turn, pivots its information into the human differential.

    The Know of Not to Know It: My Returns to Reading and Teaching Keats's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' -

  • The foolish creation of the most learned man of his time, she is the literal embodiment of the word oxymoron, and in her idiotic wisdom she represents the finest flowering of that fusion of Italian humanistic thought and northern piety which has been called

    WISDOM OF THE FOOL

  • Google Music, the search giant's cloud music service, has been labelled an 'oxymoron' by the outgoing Warner Music Group, chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph

  • If asked for the definition of the word oxymoron, "gourmet Mexican" might do it.

    Evening Standard - Home

  • The device has now become so common that the word oxymoron has come to mean this form of humor, which is entirely unrelated to the original meaning of the word.

    Conservapedia - Recent changes [en]

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Comments

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  • Sophomore (wise fool); cephalopod (head, foot); preposterous (pre, post); monopoly (one, many). Heard on NPR's Says You.

    October 25, 2014

  • dripdry drip-dry?
    bully?

    May 28, 2012

  • Can you think of a word that is both an oxymoron and a contranym?

    May 28, 2012

  • A baby with alphabet blocks is an oxymoron?

    October 24, 2010

  • I concur. Stressing the second syllable sounds better

    August 29, 2010

  • Me likes it.

    Yes, the main stress in oxymoron is on the third syllable, however, she’s pretty. QED. (It’s called proof by pulchritude.)

    In moroxy I would rather stress the second, perhaps the first syllable. Is it your coinage? If so, what is your decree?

    August 28, 2010

  • I prefer moroxy dull-sharp instead of oxymoron sharp-dull. It captures the sensation of the self-contradiction better. And the stress is on the third syllable.

    August 28, 2010

  • At university, a fellow English student remarked that she preferred a more German-ish pronunciation with the main stress on the second syllable. I’d like to know what Chelster thinks about that. :-)

    August 28, 2010

  • Warren Blumenfeld wrote the defining book on oxymorons. In his book, Jumbo Shrimp, he pointed out that an oxymoron uses contradictory words to describe something in a way that makes perfect sense. A combination of opposite words that do not make any sense is not an oxymoron. He also favored an alternate pronunciation of oxymoron. I have supplied this pronunciation under my name.

    March 29, 2009

  • Only today did it occur to me how oxymoronic this is (not to mention just plain moronic): the moral majority.

    July 20, 2008

  • Here's one I saw the other day: gourmet burger

    July 20, 2008

  • Anarchy Rules!

    March 4, 2008

  • Ah, that appears on one of my lists (appropriately titled "Jumbo Shrimp").

    December 9, 2007

  • jumbo shrimp always struck me as an odd pair.

    December 8, 2007

  • I like friendly fire (killed by...) in the same category as Military Intelligence, intelligent bombs.

    December 7, 2007

  • constant-change, meaning dynamic

    December 6, 2006