• oxymoron
  • audio pronunciation
  • \ahk-sih-MOR-ahn\
  • DEFINITION

noun

: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words; broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements
  • EXAMPLES

"That's an oxymoron!" said Joanne, when she heard the DJ describe the song as an "instant classic."

"A 'healthy snack' sounds like an oxymoron. The two words seem to be on opposite ends. But that does not have to be the case." — Karen Miller, The Boston Banner, October 23, 2014

  • DID YOU KNOW?

The Greeks exhaustively classified the elements of rhetoric, or effective speech and writing, and gave the name oxymōron, literally "pointed foolishness," to the deliberate juxtaposing of seemingly contradictory words. The roots of oxymoron, oxys meaning "sharp" or "keen" and mōros 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."

Word Family Quiz: What English word is believed to be derived from the Greek word for wise and mōros, meaning "foolish," and facetiously names a wise but still immature student? The answer is …

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