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See also: Oxymoron and oxymóron


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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 (oxúmōros), compound of ὀξύς (oxús, sharp, keen, pointed)[2] (English oxy-, as in oxygen) + μωρός (mōrós, dull, stupid, foolish)[3] (English moron (stupid person)). Literally "sharp-dull", "keen-stupid", or "pointed-foolish"[4] – itself an oxymoron, hence autological; compare sophomore (literally wise fool), influenced by similar analysis. The compound form ὀξύμωρον (oxúmōron) is not found in the extant Ancient Greek sources.[5]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɒksɪˈmɔːɹɒn/
  • (US) enPR: äk-sē-môrʹ-än, äk-sĭ-môrʹ-än, IPA(key): /ˌɑksiˈmɔɹɑn/, /ɑksɪˈmɔɹɑn/
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oxymoron (plural oxymorons or oxymora)

  1. A figure of speech in which two words or phrases with opposing meanings are used together intentionally for effect.
  2. (loosely, sometimes proscribed) A contradiction in terms.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Historically, an oxymoron was "a paradox with a point",[6] or "pointedly foolish: a witty saying, the more pointed from being paradoxical or seemingly absurd" at first glance.[4] Its deliberate purpose was to underscore a point or to draw attention to a concealed point. The common vernacular use of oxymoron as simply a contradiction in terms is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, and is perhaps best avoided in certain contexts.[1]


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See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 oxymōrus in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  2. ^ ὀξύς in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  3. ^ μωρός in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  4. 4.0 4.1 ὀξύμωρος in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  5. ^ OED
  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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