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 oxymora (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 oxymoronic (audio) , -​mȯ-​ , -​sē-​ \ adjective
oxymoronically \ ˌäk-​si-​mə-​ˈrä-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce oxymoronically (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 concept itself may strike some as something of an oxymoron. Jason Kehe, Wired, "The Media Monsters in the National Dialog," 8 July 2020 The Tibetans spend a lot of time living with death, if that isn't an oxymoron. TheWeek, "Sooner or later we all face death. Will a sense of meaning help us?," 17 May 2020 More Fusion Despite sounding like an oxymoron, stress relaxation is a way that materials redistribute internal forces in order to cope with strain. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "New Material Finally Makes It Into the Almighty Nuclear Code," 4 May 2020 There’s something charming about ALPHA NERD, which may seem like an oxymoron, but only in a bully-centric society. Caitlin Lovinger, New York Times, "Operate On With a Beam," 3 Apr. 2020 Ellen Berscheid and Elaine Hatfield, started out in a field that was then thought of as an oxymoron: relationship science. Savvy Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, Scientific American, "Can Love Actually Last?," 18 Oct. 2019 Strength of schedule is an oxymoron the next few weeks for the Patriots. BostonGlobe.com, "Same schedule for Patriots, weak after weak - The Boston Globe," 17 Sep. 2019 Luxury sleeping pads might seem like an oxymoron to some, but the Comfort Plus delivers an exceedingly cushy place to rest at the end of the day. Adrienne Donica, Popular Mechanics, "Sleep Soundly Under the Stars with the Nemo Rave," 29 Dec. 2019 State capitals, vocabulary words like doldrums and oxymoron, letters to Elie Wiesel: there’s so much to try to be the best at, and that pursuit carries me straight into summer. Dani Fleischer, Longreads, "This Is How You Lose Your Mind," 22 Nov. 2019

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

19 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Oxymoron.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oxymoron. Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for oxymoron


How to pronounce oxymoron (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of oxymoron

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

More from Merriam-Webster on oxymoron

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with oxymoron

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oxymoron

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