oxymoron

noun
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.
Recent Examples on the Web No one in legal academia today thinks unenumerated rights are protected by substantive due process, which is an oxymoron anyway. WSJ, 8 May 2022 Using bots to automate a relationship is a giant oxymoron. William Arruda, Forbes, 9 Sep. 2021 Speaking on a panel at the country’s pre-eminent conservative conference about cancel culture—itself something of an oxymoron—Greene lashed out at social media companies for silencing her. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 28 Feb. 2022 This is the third California League team to perish in the last five years, following Bakersfield and High Desert, in areas north of Los Angeles where an affordable family home is not an oxymoron. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 25 Nov. 2021 The phrase Indiana ruralDemocratic voter was not always an oxymoron. Kaitlin Lange, The Indianapolis Star, 4 Nov. 2021 And Irish cuisine, once considered a bit of an oxymoron, is on full display in Dublin. Sean Patrick Flynn, Travel + Leisure, 11 Oct. 2021 There’s an oxymoron that floats around the audio industry. Lauren Jackson, New York Times, 7 May 2021 The problems are several, starting with the oxymoron. Amanda Whiting, Vulture, 20 Aug. 2021 See More

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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Time Traveler for oxymoron

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The first known use of oxymoron was in 1657

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Last Updated

21 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Oxymoron.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oxymoron. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oxymoron

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