oxy-, -oxia, -oxic

(Greek: sharp, acute, pointed, keen; sour, acid, acidic, pungent)

oxymel (s) (noun), oxygens (pl)
A medicinal drink or syrup compounded of vinegar and honey, sometimes with other ingredients: Oxymel used to be a treatment for the common cold and to boost easier breathing, but it is also used today in some regions.
oxymoron (ahk" si MOHR uh) (s) (noun), oxymora (pl)
Sharp, keen plus foolish, dull; "pointedly foolish"; a figure of speech in which two incongruous, contradictory terms are yoked together in a small space: 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.

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.

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 oxymora 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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oxymoronic (adjective) (not comparable)
A reference to a rhetorical figure of speech which is incongruous or self-contradictory: For her English class at school, Stelle had to collect many oxymoronic terms or phrases, like "terribly good" or "student teacher" or even "spendthrift".
oxyntic (adjective) (not comparable)
Regarding the production of acid; used primarily in reference to the parietal cells of the stomach: Secreting oxyntic cells produce hydrochloric acid in the principal part of the muscular organ of the alimentary canal.
oxyopia, oxyblepsia (s) (noun); oxyopies; oxyblepsias (pl)
Abnormal acuteness, or sharpness, of sight: Oxyopia is an unusually keen and highly developed vision which arises from an increased suseptibility of the retina.
oxyopter (s) (noun), oxyopters (pl)
The reciprocal of the visual angle, used as a measure of visual acuity: The oxyopter is the unit used for assessing the acuteness of sight and is expressed in degrees.
oxyosmia (s) (noun) (no pl)
An abnormal acuteness of the sense of smell; oxyosphresia: Virginia's two children seem to have oxyosmia because they both can detect whiffs of vegetables and fruits from far away, even when the green grocer is around the corner and can't be seen!
oxypathia (s) (noun), oxypathias (pl)
1. Unusual acuity of sensation: oxyesthesia: In his old age, George developed oxypathia and had to wear gloves most of the time because his sense of touch was often painful.
2. An acute condition of sensitiveness regarding sight or pain: Floyd's doctor told him that he was experiencing oxypathia in that he was extremely sensitive to daylight, and recommended wearing sunglasses when outside, even when it seemed to be cloudy.
3. A condition in which the body is unable to eliminate unoxidizable acids which combine with fixed alkalies of the tissues: The case of oxypathia, also termed oxypathy, is harmful for the organism.
oxyperitoneum (s) (noun), oxyperitoneums; oxyperitonea (pl)
The introduction of oxygen into the peritoneal cavity: Oxyperitoneum is described as being the addition of oxygen into the membrane lining of the walls of the abdomen.
oxypetalous adjective), more oxypetalous, most oxypetalous
Concerning a plant having sharply pointed petals: An example of an oxypetalous flower is the "Dutchman's pipe cactus" (Epinhyllum oxypetalum), or queen of the night. It blooms rarely and only during the night. The flower wilts before the onset of daylight.
oxyphobe (s) (noun), oxyphobes (pl)
A plant unable to tolerate soil acidity: The grapes that produce Chardonnay wine grow well in acid soil and therefore is not considered to be an oxyphobe.
oxyphonia, oxyphony (s) (noun) (no pl)
Excessive acuteness or shrillness of the voice; Jenny, the tiny baby, cried loudly with a sharp high-pitched intensity, or oxyphonia, because she was so hungry!
oxyphyllous (adjective), more oxyphyllous, most oxyphyllous
Descriptive of a plant having pointed leaves: Some of the flowering plants in Jane's flower bed were oxyphyllous, with acute tips on the foliage.
oxyphyte (s) (noun, oxyphytes (pl))
In botany, a plant that grows in an acidic environment: In her botany book, Susan read that some vegetation is adapted to soil which lacks oxygen and are called oxyphytes.

Cross references of word families that are related directly, or indirectly, to: "sour, sharp": acerb-; aceto-; acid-; acies- (not "sour"); acuto- (not "sour"); pung- (not "sour").