oxymoron

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See also: Oxymoron and oxymóron

English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

First attested in the 17th century, noun use of 5th century Latin oxymōrum (adj), neut. nom. form of oxymōrus (adj), from Ancient Greek ὀξύμωρος (oksúmōros), compound of ὀξύς (oksús, sharp, keen) (English oxy-, as in oxygen) + μωρός (mōrós, dull, stupid) (English moron (stupid person)).[1][2] Literally “sharp-dull” or "keen-stupid", itself an oxymoron, hence autological; compare sophomore (literally wise fool), influenced by similar analysis. The compound form *ὀξύμωρον (*oksúmōron) is not found in the extant Ancient Greek sources.[3]

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɒksɪˈmɔːɹɒn/
  • (US) enPR: äk-sē-môrʹ-än, äk-sĭ-môrʹ-än, IPA(key): /ˌɑksiˈmɔɹɑn/, /ɑksɪˈmɔɹɑn/
  • (file)

Noun[edit]

oxymoron (plural oxymorons or oxymora)

  1. A figure of speech in which two words with opposing meanings are used together intentionally for effect.
    • A famous example is Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1, ll. 63-4:
      No light, but rather darkness visible
      Serv'd only to discover sights of woe
    • Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1. Scene 1, in which Romeo utters nine oxymora in just six lines of soliloquy:
      Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
      O anything, from nothing first create,
      O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!
      Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
      Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
      Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
      This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
  2. (general) A contradiction in terms.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Traditionally, the word oxymoron is used in cases where the contradiction is deliberate, its purpose being to emphasize or heighten a contrast so as to make a point. The use of oxymoron as a synonym for contradiction in terms is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, and is perhaps best avoided in certain contexts. (See the Wikipedia article.)

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ oxymōrus in Charlton T. Lewis & Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879
  2. ^ oxymoron in A Greek–English Lexicon by Liddell & Scott, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940
  3. ^ OED: [1]

External links[edit]