From ArticleWorld

An Oxymoron is a term used to define a figure of speech that places two contradictory words beside each other like “deafening silence”. The plural is “oxymora” or “oxymorons”. It is also the proper subset of phrases or expressions called “contradiction in terms”. The term is derived from two Greek words “oxy” meaning sharp and “moros” meaning dull. The distinguishing feature of an oxymoron is that it is used deliberately and knowingly for rhetoric effect.

A combination of an adjective and a noun is the most common form of oxymora. Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ has two oxymora :

“And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true”.


Given below are some examples of intentional oxymora :

  • “I do here make humbly bold to present them with a short account of themselves...” Jonathan Swift
  • “O miserable abundance, O beggarly riches!” John Donne, “Devotions on Emergent Occasions”
  • “He was now sufficiently composed to order a funeral of modest magnificence...” Samuel Johnson
  • “The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, / With loads of learned lumber in his head...” Alexander Pope
  • “O anything of nothing first create! / O heavy lightness, serious vanity! / Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms! / Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!” William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, scene 1

Perceived oxymora

Oxymoron is sometimes used to simply describe a contradiction in terms. Often, it is used to describe expressions which are used earnestly without any implication of a paradox. When such expressions are termed oxymorons, the purpose is to criticize its use and label it as nonsensical. Some examples of such oxymora are :

  • anecdotal evidence
  • civil libertarian
  • democratic leadership
  • corporate ethics

Some more examples of the different types of oxymora are :

  • accidental propaganda
  • Anthropic Humanitarian
  • civil war
  • creation science
  • empty calories
  • good grief
  • credible liar
  • humane slaughter
  • junk food
  • government dignitaries
  • pretty ugly