Definition of oxymoron
oxymoraplay play \-ˈmȯr-ə\
: a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements
oxymoronicplay \-mə-ˈrä-nik, -mȯ-\ adjective
oxymoronicallyplay \-ni-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
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.
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
OXYMORON Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of oxymoron for English Language Learners
: a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings
Learn More about oxymoron
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oxymoron
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