What Is an Oxymoron? (with Examples)

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Oxymoron

An oxymoron is a term in which two contradictory terms are combined.

oxymoron examples

The term "oxymoron" is itself an oxymoron as it derives from the Greek "oxus" (sharp) and "moros" (stupid).

The plural of "oxymoron" is "oxymorons" or "oxymora," but "oxymorons" is far more popular [evidence].

Easy Examples of Oxymorons

  • Act naturally
  • (Acting means you're not being natural.)
  • Non-working mother
  • (Being a mother involves a lot of work.)
  • Fresh raisins
  • (Raisins are dried-out grapes.)

More Examples of Oxymorons

Often, it is debatable whether the contradictory terms in an oxymoron are truly contradictory. Often, they are not. Here are some well-known oxymorons that have only partially contradictory terms.
  • dull shine
  • female gunman
  • jumbo shrimp
  • plastic glasses
  • Four-ounce pound cake
Here is an example of something that looks a lot like an oxymoron but isn't.
  • Non-prosaic prose
  • ("Prosaic" is the adjective of prose, which is normal text as opposed to poetry and verse. The term "non-prosaic prose" looks like an oxymoron, but it isn't because "prosaic" can also mean ordinary, everyday, or boring. So, they're just two interesting words that translate, literally, as interesting words.)
Read more about prose.

Why Should I Care about Oxymorons?

Encourage your readers to ponder your concept.

Oxymorons are not usually mistakes. The contradictory elements are often deliberate to cause the reader to pause and ponder the concept.
  • Deafening silence
  • (This classic oxymoron describes an uncomfortable silence – as uncomfortable as someone screaming. It's a thought-provoking phrase.)
While oxymorons are more common in poetry and literary works, they do have some utility in business correspondence as they can be impactful.

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What are anagrams? Try our anagram builder. What is a palindrome? What is alliteration What is assonance? What is consonance? What is a logosglyph? Glossary of grammatical terms