33 Perfectly Odd Oxymorons

33 Perfectly Odd Oxymorons


Writers Write is a comprehensive writing resource. In this post, we talk about the meaning of oxymorons and give you 33 examples.

What Are Oxymorons?

An oxymoron is “a phrase that combines two words that seem to be the opposite of each other, for example a ‘deafening silence’.” (Oxford Dictionaries)

An oxymoron is a compressed paradox. It is a figure of speech where a writer combines seemingly contradictory terms. You may have noticed that I used one in this blog post title.

10 Common Oxymorons

Here are 10 frequently-used oxymorons:
  1. Awfully pretty
  2. Clearly misunderstood
  3. Foolish wisdom
  4. Larger half
  5. Minor miracle
  6. Only choice
  7. Poor health
  8. Seriously funny
  9. Small crowd
  10. Unbiased opinion

The common oxymoron phrase is a combination of an adjective followed by a noun with contrasting meanings. We use oxymorons because they make effective titles in literature or film, and add dramatic effect, for example, Dead Man Walking, Mr. Mom, and True Lies.

They add flavour to speech and can also be cynical, sarcastic, or witty and used for comic effect or relief.

13 Amusing Oxymorons

You will recognise these 13:

  1. Affordable housing
  2. Airline food
  3. American English
  4. Business ethics
  5. Government organisation
  6. Health-care system
  7. Human development
  8. Marital bliss
  9. Military intelligence
  10. Political correctness
  11. United Nations
  12. Weapons of peace
  13. Western civilisation

The word oxymoron comes from the Greek for pointedly foolish: ‘oxys’ means sharp or keen and ‘moros’ means foolish.

10 More Oxymorons In A Paragraph

Richard Watson Todd shows us how easily we accept oxymorons as part of everyday speech in this paragraph from Much Ado about EnglishThere are 10 in this example:

It was an open secret that the company had used a paid volunteer to test the plastic glasses. Although they were made using liquid gas technology and were an original copy that looked almost exactly like a more expensive brand, the volunteer thought that they were pretty ugly and that it would be simply impossible for the general public to accept them. On hearing this feedback, the company board was clearly confused and there was a deafening silence. This was a minor crisis and the only choice was to drop the product line.

Happy writing!

by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this, read these posts:

  1. Can I? May I?
  2. All About Prefixes
  3. 27 Blogging Tips To Grow Your Business
  4. 5 Fool Proof Ways To Write Better Emails
  5. The Amazingly Simple Anatomy Of A Meaningful Marketing Story

TOP TIP: If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our in-person Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

This article has 7 comments

  1. Linda Parkes

    Military Intelligence

  2. William Watkins

    creation science

  3. KrishnaKumar Damodaran

    scientific religion

  4. DL Kirkwood

    High-functioning Autism.

  5. susan

    plain confusion

  6. AJ

    In your last example paragraph you forgot to bold only choice as an oxymoron.

  7. Writers Write

    Hello AJ
    We didn’t put it in bold because it was number 6 in the first list, and it had already been mentioned.

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