By T.V. Antony Raj
An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines ostensibly contradictory terms. Appropriately, the word oxymoron is itself oxymoronic because it is formed from two Greek roots of opposite meaning: ὀξύς (oxus, “sharp, keen”) + μωρός (mōros, “dull, stupid”).
The most common form of oxymoron involves an adjective–noun combination of two words.
dark light, living dead, guest host, little while, mad wisdom, mournful optimist, violent relaxation
Plural of oxymoron is oxymorons or oxymora.
Why do writers use phrases that do not seem to be logical?
- To Create a Dramatic Effect: To call attention to a picture or a scenery the writer calls it “painfully beautiful!” or uses any such oxymoron to show that the object has two different qualities at the same time.
- To Add Flavour to Speech: A writer finds a new way to describe an individual by using an oxymoron such as “unpopular celebrity” or describes an object by using the oxymoron “naturally weird.”
- To Entertain: When the writer wants to be witty, he uses words that make people laugh. Oscar Wilde comically writes “I can resist anything, except temptation.”
I have listed below some of the many oxymora I have come across in my reading. If you think that any in this list is not an oxymoron, please let me know so that I can drop them. Also, if you do come across any other interesting oxymora other than what I have included in this list, please let me know so that I can add them.
absolutely unsure, abundant poverty, accidentally on purpose, accurate estimate, accurate horoscope, accurate rumors, accurate stereotype, act naturally, active retirement, actual reenactment, adult children, Advanced BASIC, advanced beginner, all alone, almost exactly, alone together, altogether separate, amateur expert, amazingly awful, American English, amicable divorce, anarchy rules!, anonymous colleague, anti-missile missile, anxious patient, apathetic interest, appear invisible, approximate solution, approximately equal, arrogant humility, artificial grass, artificial intelligence, assistant supervisor, astronomically small, auto pilot, authentic replica, authentic reproduction, awfully good, awfully delicious, awfully lucky, awfully nice, awfully pretty
baby giant, bad health, bad luck, bad sport, balanced insanity, ballpoint, baggy tights, bankrupt millionaire, barely clothed, barely dressed, beautifully painful, benevolent despot, benign neglect, big baby, bipartisan cooperation, birth control, bittersweet, blameless culprit, bland spice, boneless ribs, boring entertainment, born dead, bridegroom, bug fix, build down, building wrecking, bureaucratic efficiencies, buried alive, burning cold, butt head
calculated risk, calm storm, canned fresh, cautiously optimistic, center around, certain risk, certainly unsure, chaotic organization, cheerful pessimist, cheerful undertaker, cheerfully cynical, cheerfully mournful, chilling fever, civil engineer, civilized warfare, clean dirt, clean litter, clean toilet, clearly confused, clearly ambiguous, clearly confused, clearly misunderstood, clearly obfuscating, clever fool, climb down, clogged drain, closer apart, close distance, cluster bomb, co-ed fraternity, co-ed sorority, cold fever, cold hotdog, cold toast, comedic tragedy, comfortable tights, commercial art, common abnormality, common phenomenon, complete separation, completely destroyed, completely unfinished, component parts, compulsory volunteers, concrete pad, confident fear, conscripted volunteer, Conservative Democrat, conservative liberal, consistent discrepancies, consistent uncertainties, consistently inconsistent, conspicuously absent, constant change, constant infrequent, constant variable, constructive criticism, constructive negativity, continuing resolution, contra aid, contra assistance, controlled enthusiasm, controlled chaos, convergent evolution, countless numbers, cowardly lion, crash landing, creative destruction, criminal justice, crisis management, critical acclaim, cruel kindness, current history, curved Line
daily special, damned good, dangerously safe, dark day, dark light, dark star, darkness visible, dead livestock, deaf listener, deafening silence, deeply superficial, defensive strike, deficit spending, definite maybe, definite perhaps, deliberate mistake, deliberate speed, deliberately thoughtless, delicious torment, demanding patient, deregulation law, detailed summary, devilish angel, devout atheist, different pattern, diligent sloth, diminishing growth, diminutive giants, dim light, dimwit, direct circumvention, disgustingly delicious, distant relative, divided unity, doing nothing, double solitaire, doubting believers, droning silence, dry ice, dry lake, dry pond, dry snow, dull knife, dull needle, dull roar, dynamic monotone, dynamic stability
easy labor, educated guess, elevated subway, élite rabble, eloquent silence, energetic exhaustion, enormously small, entertaining sermon, enthusiastic indifference, equally diverse, essential luxury, eternal life, ethical hackers, even odds, exact estimate, exactly wrong, executive assistant, executive secretary, expected surprise, explicitly ambiguous, expressive silence, extinct life, expressive silence, extended deadline, extensive briefing
fail safe, fairly accurate, fairly explicit, fairly obvious, fallout shelter, false fact, falsely true, famous-anonymous, farewell reception, far nearer, fast snail, fast turtle, fast walk, faultily faultless, fearful bravery, female gunman, fiberglass, fictional truth, fictional reality, fiery ice, final draft, finally again, fine mess, firewater, firm maybe, firm pillow, first annual, first conclusions, first deadline, flexible freeze, floppy disk, foreign national, forgotten memories, former native, former President-for-life, forward back, found missing, free credit, free election, free gift, free labor, free love, free prisoner, free purchase, free rent, free trade, freezer burn, fresh cheese, fresh dried-fruit, fresh frozen, friendly advice, friendly argument, friendly competitor, friendly divorce, friendly enemy, friendly fights, friendly fire, frightening comfort, front end, frugal gourmet, full-time hobby, future history, fuzzy logic
gargantuan Lilliputian, gentle turbulence, gentleman bandit, genuine fake, genuine imitation, genuine imitation-leather, giant dwarf, gigantic microorganism, global village, going nowhere, good garbage, good grief, good junk, goodbye reception, graduate student, great depression, green oranges, gregarious recluse, grotesque beauty, growing smaller, guest host, gummily brittle
half empty, half full, happily married, happy pessimist, hard cushion, hardly easy, harmless abuse, harmless lie, harmless sin, harmonious discord, hasten slowly, hatefully good, healthy chocolate, heavy diet, heavy gas, Hell’s Angels, high ground, holy hell, home office, honest convict, honest crook, honest liar, honest politician, honest thief, hopeful pessimist, hopelessly optimistic, horribly decent, hot chilli, house boat, huge shortage, human robot, humane robotics
icy hot, idiot savant, idly laborious, ignorant professor, ill fortune, ill-health, impatient patient, important trivia, indifferently attentive, industrial park, inside out, initial conclusion, initial results, initial retirement, innocent criminal, insane logic, insanely normal, increasing declines, incredibly common, inside out, irate patient
joyful trouble, jumbo shrimp, Jumpstart, junk food, just war
kickstand, known covert-operation, kosher ham
ladies man, larger half, last initial, least favorite, legitimate conspiracy, liberal conservative, liberal fundamentalists, light darkness, light heavyweight, linear curve, liquid crystal, liquid food, liquid gas, liquid metal, liquid smoke, literal interpretation, literary illiterates, little big, little giant, little pregnant, little while, live recording, living dead, local network, long brief, long shorts, loose tights, loud whisper, loud silence, lovers’ quarrel, low altitude, lower inflation, loyal opposition
macro-microorganism, mad wisdom, major minority, man-child, mannish woman, marital bliss, massively thin, master slave, mature student, maxi thins, mean smile, meaningful nonsense, meatless meat, medium Large, melancholy merriment, melted Ice, mercy killing, metal woods, Mexican American, micro-mainframe, Middle East, midnight sun, mighty weak, mild abrasive, mild interest, militant pacifist, mini jumbo, minor crisis, misanthropic humanitarian, missing present, mobile home, modern tradition, modestly arrogant, more unique, mournful optimist, moving target, muscular fat, mute sound, mutual differences, mutually exclusive
nameless celebrity, nasty politeness, Native American, natural artifact, natural makeup, natural synthetic, naturally strange, near future, near miss, neat mess, necessary evil, negative gain, negative growth, neutral charge, never again, never ever, new archeology, new classic, new cliche, new tradition, noble savage, noiseless sound, noisy mime, non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic wine, non-dairy creamer, non-denominational church, non-fat cream, non-stick glue, non-stick gum, non-stick velcro, non-stop flight, non-working mother, normal deviation, nothing much, noticeable absence, now then, nuclear defense, nuclear safety, numb feeling, numbing sensation
obedient defiance, obscene art, obvious secret, obviously concealed, ocean shore, oddly appropriate, oddly natural, old boy, old fashion, old newborn, old news, one-man band, once again, one choice, one-man band, one-person crew, only choice, open lock, open-minded, open secret, open-book test, opposite attraction, orderly confusion, organized anarchy, organized chaos, organized confusion, organized mess, original copy, original reprint, original reproduction, outer core, oven fried, oxymoron, oyster crackers
paid volunteer, painfully beautiful, painless torture, painless dentistry, paper tablecloth, paper towel, parallel connection, Park Drive, partial cease-fire, parting is such sweet sorrow, peace force, partial conclusion, partial success, partly pregnant, passive aggression, passive aggressive, passive confrontation, past prediction, patriotic militia, peace force, peace offensive, peace riot, peaceful protests, Peacekeeper Missile, Peacekeeping Force, PeaceMaker missile, peasant king, perfect idiot, perfect misfit, perfectly awful, perfectly normal, perfectly ridiculous, perfect screw-up, permanent substitute, persistent ambivalence, personal business, petty cash, pianoforte, pious atheist, plain buttered-bagels, planned spontaneity, plastic flowers, plastic glasses, plastic silverware, plastic straw, plastic wood, player-coach, pleasant hell, pleasantly confused, pleasing pain, politely insulting, political ethics, political promise, political trust, pool table, poor rich-kid, positively negative, positively wrong, post-modern, pretty cruel, pretty ugly, pretty fierce, practice test, precious junk, predictably random, preliminary conclusion, premeditated spontaneity, preposterous, press release, pretty bad, pretty disgusting, priceless junk, problem solved, pro-contra, procrastinate now, progressing backward, Progressive Conservative, proprietary standard, proud humility, public secret, pure evil, pure dirt, pure speculation
questionable answer, quiet hurricanes, quiet loudspeaker,quiet noise,quiet presence, quiet revolution, quiet riot, quiet scream, quiet storm, quiet tirade, quiet yell
random logic, random order, randomly organized, random pattern, real fantasy, real magic, real phony, real potential, realistic fantasy, realistic liberal, realistic simulation, reasonable fees, recent history, recently new, reckless caution, recoilless rifle, recorded live, recycling dump, red licorice, regular special, rehearsed improvisation, relative stranger, remember forgetting, remotely obvious, removable sticker, renegade lawmakers, required donation, required elective, resident alien, resolute ambivalence, restless sleep, retired Worker, rising deficits, roaring silence, rogue cop, rolling stop, round corner, round edges, routine emergency, routine surgery, rubber bones, rubber cement, run slowly, running idle, rush hour, rustic elegance
sad clown, sad joy, sad optimist, sad smile, sadly amused, sadly funny, safe bet, safe guns, safe investment, safe sex, safe weapons, safety hazard, same difference, sanitary napkin, sanitary sewer, scalding coolness, scheduled spontaneity, school vacation, science fiction, scientific speculation, screaming silence, scripted spontaneity, seashore, second best, second initial, secret rumor, sedate sex, semiprecious, serious clown, serious comic, serious fun, serious humor, seriously funny, shabby chic, shared monopoly, sharp curve, short distance, shouting whispers, shyly pompous, sight unseen, silent alarm, silent applause, silent barber, silent cacophony, silent noise, silent scream, silent sound, silent speech, silent testimony, silent women, silent yell, simple calculus, simple procedure, simple plan, simple technology, simply superb, sincere lie, sinfully good, single copy, single diversity, single pair, sit up, slave master, sleep vigorously, slight exaggeration, slight hernia, slightly overweight, slightly pregnant, slow jet, slow jog, slow speed, slow-motion explosion, small crowd, smart fool, smart idiot, small fortune, small giant, smokeless cigarette, snow-white tan, soaring down, sober drunk, social hermit, social outcast, soft thunder, solid rumor, solo concert, solo ensemble, someone, sound of silence, sound-filled silence, specifically vague, spectator sport, speech writing, speed limit, spendthrift, splendidly dull, spoken thought, squared circle, staged accident, standard deviation, start stopping, static variable, stationary orbit, stealth bomber, steel wool, still moving, still wind, stop action, straight angle, straight hook, straight-forward, strangely familiar, student teacher, stunted growth, stupid genius, subtle exaggeration, successful suicide, sugarless candy, sun shade, superette, sure bet, sure guess, sweet pickle, sweet agony, sweet sorrow, sweet-tart, synthetic natural gas, systematic chaos, systematic disorder, systematic variance
talking mime, tame beast, taped live, tense calm, terminal initialization, terribly enjoyable, terribly good, terribly nice, terribly pleased, thunderous silence, tight slacks, timeless moment, tiny mountain, toll free, tomorrow today, top floor, totalitarian democracy, totally partial, traditionally radical, tragic comedy, tranquil fiesta, transient stability, tremendously small, troubled paradise, true counterfeit, true fiction, true gossip, true illusion, true lies, true myth, true story, typically odd, typically weird
unbelievably real, unbiased opinion, unbiased predisposition, uncommonly common, uncommonly normal, uncrowned king, undocumented report, uninvited guest, united anarchist, unique uniforms, unknown identity, unknown knowledge, upcoming downtrend, upside down, unpopular celebrity, unrepeatable pleonasm, unsalted saltines, unspoken suggestion, unsung hero, unusual routine, unwelcome greetings, usually unusual
valuable junk, vegetarian meatball, venial sin, violent agreement, violent relaxation, virtual reality
waking dream, walking dead, warm ice, waterproof sponge, weak muscle, wedded bliss, weekday, weirdly normal, well-preserved ruins, whole half, whole hemisphere, whole part, whole piece, whole percentage, wholesome, wickedly good, wordless book, working hobby, working holiday, working vacation, worst favorite, worthless gold
young adult, young sixty