You searched for: “oxymora
oxymora (pl)
Sharp, keen plus foolish, dull; "pointedly foolish" pronounced [ahk" si MOHR uh].

Sometimes when the word "oxymoron" is used, someone will exclaim, "Good grief! What is an oxymoron? Is it a dumb bovine?" No, far from it.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two incongruous, contradictory terms are yoked together in a small space. In fact, "good grief" is an oxymoron.

Even the word oxymoron is itself oxymoronic because it is formed from two Greek roots of opposite meanings: oxys, "sharp, keen", and moros, "dull, foolish", the same root that gives us the word moron.

    Richard Lederer has divided oxymora into several categories:


    Single-word oxymora composed of dependent morphemes:

  • sophomore (wise fool)
  • pianoforte (soft loud)
  • preposterous (before after)
  • superette (big small)

    Single-word oxymora composed of independent morphemes:

  • spendthrift
  • bridegroom
  • bittersweet
  • ballpoint
  • speechwriting
  • firewater
  • someone

    Logological oxymora:

  • nook (joins the opposing words no and ok)
  • noyes (joins the opposing words no and yes)

    Natural oxymora (considered "natural" because the perception of these duos as oxymora is relatively direct and effortless and does not depend on plays on words or personal values):

  • inside out
  • student teacher
  • working vacation
  • small fortune
  • open secret
  • sight unseen
  • loyal opposition
  • idiot savant
  • light heavyweight
  • original copy
  • final draft
  • random order
  • negative growth
  • elevated subway
  • mobile home
  • benign neglect
  • benevolent despot
  • fresh frozen
  • recorded live
  • one-man band
  • old boy
  • living end

    Punning oxymora (punning is the compacting of two meanings into a verbal space that they do not occupy in ordinary discourse):

  • jumble shrimp
  • flat busted
  • even odds
  • baby grand
  • female jock
  • death benefit

    Conversion puns (oxymoronic pairs that rely on the coexistence of two parts of speech for the same word):

  • press release
  • kickstand
  • divorce court
  • building wrecking
  • white rose

    Dead metaphors (a word becomes oxymoronic when it is set alongside another word that collides with its earlier meaning):

  • awful(ly) good
  • terribly good
  • damned good
  • many fewer
  • barely clothed
  • clearly obfuscating
  • far nearer
  • growing small
  • hardly easy
  • a little big

    Crafted oxymora (an apparent sense of conscious contrivance and crafting):

  • Little Giant (for Stephen Douglas)
  • confidently scared
  • same difference
  • accidentally on purpose
  • global village
  • lead balloon (It went over like a lead balloon)
  • dull roar (Keep it down to a dull roar)
  • old news
  • death benefit

    Literary oxymora:

  • hateful good (Geoffry Chaucer)
  • proud humility (Herbert Spenser)
  • melancholy merriment (George Gordon Byron)
  • sweet sorrow (William Shakespeare)
  • darkness visible (John Milton)
  • scalding coolness (Ernest Miller Hemingway)
  • falsely true (Alfred Tennyson)

    Doublespeak oxymora (language that avoids or shifts responsibility or is at variance with its real or purported meaning):

  • genuine imitation
  • real counterfeit [diamonds]
  • new and improved (can anything be both?)
  • terminal living
  • mandatory option
  • semiboneless

    Opinion oxymora (the injection of personal values and editorializing):

  • military intelligence
  • non-working mother
  • young Republican
  • war games
  • peacekeeper missile
  • business ethics
  • student athlete
  • educational television
  • postal service
  • airline food
  • rock music

    Technological oxymora:

  • paper table-cloths
  • green blackboards (AKA: “chalk boards”)
  • metal wood
  • plastic silverware (glasses, wood)

Should oxymoronic strings, like the double-play “fresh frozen jumbo shrimp”, be accorded special mention? What about triple plays in which all three words interact; such as, “permanent guest host”?

While the forms that oxymora assume are far from infinite, they are certainly varied. The boundaries separating one category from another blur and shift even as they are compiled, but the lines can be useful.

—Source of information:
Richard Lederer; “Oxymoronology” in Word Ways, Vol. 23, No. 2;
May 1990; pages 102-105.

You may find extensive lists of oxymora at this link.

This entry is located in the following unit: oxy-, -oxia, -oxic (page 4)
oxymoron (s) (noun), oxymora (pl)
1. A combination of words or a phrase that have opposite or very different meanings; also used for special effects: The phrases "cruel kindness", "deafening silence", a "mournful optimist", a "wise fool", and "legal murder" are examples of oxymora.
2. A phrase in which a locution creates an incongruent and apparently self-contradictory effect, as in “to make haste slowly”: The two girls decided to make their language special by creating new oxymorons and using old well-known ones, too, as "scalding coolness " from Hemminway and "melancholy merriment" from Byron.
3. Etymology: from Greek, oxys, "keen, point, sharp" and moros, "foolish".
A form of communication in which contradictory ideas or terms are combined.
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This entry is located in the following units: moro-, mor-, -moria (page 1) oxy-, -oxia, -oxic (page 4)