Oxymoron #atozchallenge

Oxymoron is a word formed from the Greek words ὀξύς (oksus), “sharp, pointed, keen,” and μωρός (moros), “dull, stupid, foolish.” An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. Even the word is a contradiction in terms (i.e. “sharp dull”).

We mostly think in terms of comical oxymorons, such as

  • jumbo shrimp
  • educational television
  • military intelligence
  • business ethics
  • civil war
  • happily married
  • Microsoft Works
  • tall shortstop

The term sophomore (used to denote the second year of high school or college in the US) is an oxymoron, (sophos, “smart” + moros, “stupid”).

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is full of them: “brawling love,” “loving hate,” “heavy lightness” etc.

I’m sure that you can think of a few more…

29 thoughts on “Oxymoron #atozchallenge

  1. I like oxymorons – both the word (it’s such fun to say) and actual examples like the ones you gave =)


  2. One of my favorite words. I read that James Thurber and E. B. White liked to irritate Harold Ross by saying things like, “That building over there is pretty ugly and a little big.” But as long as Ross kept signing their paychecks, I guess it was okay.


  3. Hi John – they’re all around us aren’t they … bitter-sweet, lead balloon, good grief … and so on – but a great word for ‘O’ in the Challenge – cheers Hilary


    1. That’s what makes it such an adventure. Classic literature (Virgil, Ovid, Homer etc.) had lots of plays on words. Not that I can remember any of them.


  4. John,

    I’ve heard this word many times and got the gest of its meaning but I love the word pairing you came up with the illustrated the point. However, I have to disagree with happily married being lumped in because I’m happily married and it’s not one-sided. DH feels the same. It’s sad that some feel otherwise. Thanks for opening my eyes!

    A2Z Little Mermaid art sketch ‘ Ollie’


    1. “Happily married?” How cynical!
      Oxymoron. I like the word, just the sound of it, it rolls of the tongue nicely.
      We use them without thinking, like telling someone “That’s your only choice.” Or, “These are in random order.”


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