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noun ox·y·mo·ron \ˌäk-sē-ˈmȯr-ˌän\

Simple Definition of oxymoron

  • : a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of oxymoron



play play \-ˈmȯr-ə\
  1. :  a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly :  something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements


play \-mə-ˈrä-nik, -mȯ-\ adjective


play \-ni-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of oxymoron in a sentence

  1. The phrase “Broadway rock musical” is an oxymoron. Broadway doesn't have the nerve to let the really hard stuff in the house. —Mark Coleman, Rolling Stone, 26 Dec. 1996/ 9 Jan. 1997

  2. Taken to its logical conclusion, this emphasis on the fragmentation of the body politic makes postmodern feminism an oxymoron: feminism and virtually all our laws against sex discrimination reflect the presumption that women do in fact constitute a political category. —Wendy Kaminer, Atlantic, October 1993

  3. He calls himself a “bleeding-heart conservative,” and that oxymoron sums up the unique [Jack F.] Kemp role in the Bush Administration: the apostle of free enterprise who is the ambassador to the poor. —William Safire ,New York Times Magazine, 25 Mar. 1990

  4. As the war went on, “precision bombing” became a comical oxymoron relished by bomber crews with a sense of black humor. —Paul Fussell, Wartime, 1989

  5. The phrase cruel kindness is an oxymoron.

Did You Know?

The Greeks exhaustively classified the elements of rhetoric, or effective speech and writing, and gave the name oxymoron, literally "pointed foolishness," to the deliberate juxtaposing of seemingly contradictory words. The roots of oxymoron - oxys, meaning "sharp" or "keen," and moros, meaning "foolish" - are nearly antonyms themselves, making oxymoron nicely self-descriptive. Oxymoron originally applied to a meaningful paradox condensed into a couple of words, as in "precious bane," "lonely crowd," or "sweet sorrow." Today, however, oxymoron can also refer to unintentional contradictions, like "a plastic glass."

Origin and Etymology of oxymoron

Late Greek oxymōron, from neuter of oxymōros pointedly foolish, from Greek oxys sharp, keen + mōros foolish

First Known Use: 1657

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

Rhymes with oxymoron

abutilon, Agamemnon, anticodon, antiproton, archenteron, arrière-ban, asyndeton, automaton, Azerbaijan, Bellerophon, bildungsroman, carrying-on, diazinon, dodecagon, emoticon, encephalon, get a move on, himation, interferon, kakiemon, keep an eye on, Laocoön, mesenteron, Michoacán, millimicron, phenomenon, protozoon, pteranodon, put the arm on, put the make on, rear echelon, Rostov-on-Don, Saskatchewan, septentrion, set one's heart on, set one's sights on, sine qua non, steal a march on, take it out on, Taklimakan, turn one's back on, Vientiane, wipe one's boots on, zero coupon, zooplankton

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less dense or relating to a select group

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