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 The idea of a moderate on social media can sometimes seem like an oxymoron, but this is because the loudest voices drown out those in the middle. Christopher A. Bail, CNN, "Facebook's decision on readmitting Trump is going to enrage people. But there's more to the story," 4 May 2021 Some biologists say that since plants lack neurons, plant neurobiology is an oxymoron. Max Norman, Outside Online, "What Plants Can Teach Us About Politics," 13 Apr. 2021 Then it was reported that Haredi viewers (the very phrase is something of an oxymoron) were also binge-watching the show. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, "The Haredi Jewish Family of “Shtisel” Returns for a Third Season," 22 Mar. 2021 All that is packed into an aspiration that for so long has seemed like an oxymoron: Everglades restoration. Kevin Spear, orlandosentinel.com, "Orlando radio reporter Amy Green publishes Everglades book," 11 Mar. 2021 For many, the idea of an international nationalist movement is an oxymoron. New York Times, "Capitol Riot Puts Spotlight on ‘Apocalyptically Minded’ Global Far Right," 24 Jan. 2021 Uphill skiing is not an oxymoron, writes Times contributor Brian E. Clark. Los Angeles Times, "What do sinks and virtual travel have in common? Hear us out...," 17 Dec. 2020 That experience was both priceless and valuable — and that’s not an oxymoron. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: The judicial branch, race in Minnesota, the pandemic response," 23 Oct. 2020 It’s the latest rage: wear a mask, get tested and keep your social distance, America’s newest oxymoron. Kevin Fisher-paulson, SFChronicle.com, "Fisher-Paulson: In the woke era, I am happy being the cool kid’s dad," 18 Aug. 2020

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

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oxymoron.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oxymoron. Accessed 10 May. 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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