Thursday, October 3, 2019

Oxymoron: Meaning and Examples

OXYMORON (noun) : a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness)
broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

* The plural of oxymoron is oxymorons or oxymora.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech.  It is used as a rhetorical or a literary device to create humour or satire or irony.  It usually consists of one or two words which seemingly contradict each other, yet appear next to each other.  It is interesting to note that the word "oxymoron" is in itself contradictory.  The word is derived from two ancient Greek words, oxys, meaning "sharp" and moronos, meaning "dull" or "stupid."

There is a difference between an "oxymoron" and a "paradox."  A paradox consists of a statement or a group of statements, while an oxymoron consists of two contradictory terms.  Merriam-Webster defines a paradox as "something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible." - Example:  In a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it.

List of oxymorons

absolutely unsure
accidentally on purpuse
agree to disagree
almost exactly
alone in a crowd
alone together
awfully nice
civil war
clearly confused
confirmed rumour
cruel kindness
deafening silence
found missing
growing smaller
jumbo shrimp
lead balloon
liquid gas
minor crisis
new classic
old news
only choice
open secret
original copy
plastic silverware
pretty ugly
small crowd
working vacation

List of satirical oxymorons

Satirical oxymorons are composed of words that are not inherently contradictory but express the opinion that the two do not go together.

airline schedules
American culture
business ethics
just war
maternity fashion
military intelligence
political leadership


"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."

- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English writer, poet and academic
From The Lord of the Rings


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say he is brave; it is a loose misapplication of the word.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Eruption; Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940) edited by Bernard DeVoto

- Joanne