ox·​y·​mo·​ron | \ ˌäk-si-ˈmȯr-ˌän How to pronounce oxymoron (audio) , -sē- \
plural oxymorons or less commonly oxymora\ ˌäk-​si-​ˈmȯr-​ə How to pronounce oxymoron (audio) , -​sē-​ \

Definition of oxymoron

: 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

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Other Words from oxymoron

oxymoronic \ ˌäk-​si-​mə-​ˈrä-​nik How to pronounce oxymoron (audio) , -​mȯ-​ , -​sē-​ \ adjective
oxymoronically \ ˌäk-​si-​mə-​ˈrä-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce oxymoron (audio) , -​mȯ-​ , -​sē-​ \ adverb

Frequently Asked Questions About oxymoron

Can a person be an oxymoron?

While we are loath to place restrictions on language use, oxymoron usually refers to a set of contradictory words (such as bittersweet) rather than to a contradictory person. We must also inform you that an oxymoron and a moron have little in common except that both words come from the Greek word for "foolish" (mōros).

What is the difference between oxymoron and paradox?

An oxymoron is a self-contradicting word or group of words (as in Shakespeare’s line from Romeo and Juliet, "Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!"). A paradox is a statement or argument that seems to be contradictory or to go against common sense, but that is yet perhaps still true—for example, "less is more."

Is oxymoronic a word?

Yes. Oxymoronic is the adjectival form of oxymoron. Oxymoronically is the adverbial form of the word. There is, we regret to inform you, no commonly used verb form of the word.

Examples of oxymoron in a Sentence

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 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 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 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 The phrase “cruel kindness” is an oxymoron.
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Recent Examples on the Web When the three partners founded COS in 1980, great Sicilian wine was a distant vision if not an outright oxymoron, but their winery soon became one of the standard bearers of well made wine from Sicily. Lettie Teague, WSJ, 21 July 2021 Digital performance for him is something of an oxymoron. Charles Mcnulty, Los Angeles Times, 2 Mar. 2021 Her own lawyer has called her a high-functioning conservatee, which conservatorship experts have noted is an oxymoron in the conservatorship system. Robin Fields, ProPublica, 13 July 2021 What was once an oxymoron is now the increasing norm: Camping is very much on the grid. Jessica Teich, Good Housekeeping, 3 July 2021 And indeed, if Harris were to avoid mentioning corruption in Mexico while assigning López Obrador a partnership role in combating it in Central America, that would be something of an oxymoron. Jorge G. Castañeda, CNN, 4 June 2021 The idea of edge-of-your-seat movie entertainment is something of an oxymoron, or at the very least an overrated advertising gimmick. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 26 May 2021 The Light Ages is a book about medieval science, which to many casual readers sounds like something of an oxymoron. Chad Orzel, Forbes, 12 May 2021 Sturgeon embodies an apparent oxymoron: a left-of-center nationalist. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 3 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oxymoron.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of oxymoron

1657, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for oxymoron

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

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The first known use of oxymoron was in 1657

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Last Updated

1 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oxymoron.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oxymoron. Accessed 4 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for oxymoron



English Language Learners Definition of oxymoron

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

More from Merriam-Webster on oxymoron

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oxymoron


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