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),[1] from Ancient Greek ὀξύμωρος (oksúmōros), compound of ὀξύς (oksús, sharp, keen, pointed)[2] (English oxy-, as in oxygen) + μωρός (mōrós, dull, stupid, folly)[3] (English moron (stupid person)). Literally “sharp-dull”, "keen-stupid" or "pointed folly"[4] – 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.[5]

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]

  • Historically, an oxymoron was "a paradox with a point",[6] where the contradiction seems absurd at first glance, and yet is deliberate, its purpose being to underscore a point or to draw attention to a concealed point. The modern usage of oxymoron as a synonym for the simpler contradiction in terms is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, and is perhaps best avoided in certain contexts.[1][4] (See also the Wikipedia article.)

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 oxymōrus in Charlton T. Lewis & Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879
  2. ^ ὀξύς in A Greek–English Lexicon by Liddell & Scott, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940
  3. ^ μωρός in A Greek–English Lexicon by Liddell & Scott, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940
  4. 4.0 4.1 ὀξύμωρος in A Greek–English Lexicon by Liddell & Scott, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1940
  5. ^ OED: [1]
  6. ^ Jebb, Sir Richard (1900). Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part III: The Antigone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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