Web Word Explorations Site   

Find the word or words that you want to see on this site
or on the Internet.

It’s Oxymora, Idiots Savants, not Oxymorons!

An oxymoron is a literary figure of speech in which contradictory or opposite terms or ideas are combined to create a rhetorical effect by paradoxical means. The word is said to come from the Greek elements, oxy- = “sharp, pointed” and moros, moron = “dull, foolish”; in other words, “pointedly foolish”. An oxymoron is also said to be “a wittily paradoxical turn of phrase that appeals to ‘unconscious responses instead of rational examinations.’ ” Wow! Did you grasp all of that? Sometimes dictionaries can create more confusion than clarification. Well, I’m sure you’ve heard this before: “Look up the words if you don’t know what they mean!” That’s one method that can be used to expand your vocabulary skills. Having a good dictionary, and using it, is one of the most important sources you can have for personal-word development.

The simplest definition of an oxymoron is the use of words, phrases, or statements that have meanings which are contradictory to each other. For example, one of the most common oxymora is “jumbo shrimp”. Jumbo simply means “very large” while shrimp means “very small (animal, etc.)”; which illustrates two opposite sizes. Some oxymora are not obvious and may require an understanding of regional or verbal interpretations and there are even those that indicate certain prejudices.

Oxymoron is the singular form and oxymora is the plural form, despite the misuse of “oxymorons” as the plural form by those who should know better.

Oxymora are not necessarily mistakes or errors in speech or writing. They make effective titles and phrases and some combinations are even humorous; however, sometimes they are bloopers or incorrectly interpreted as oxymora. While researching this list, I found hundreds of lists many of which included phrases that were pleonasms (redundancies) rather than opposites.

According to Evan Esar in Esar’s Comic Dictionary, an oxymoron is “a figure of speech that stands for a self-contradictory expression, like a chaste whore or an honest politician.” Malcolm Muggeridge, who predated Esar, said, “Good taste and humor are a contradiction in terms, like a chaste whore.” Could this be a case of “honest plagiarism”?

Lists of oxymora are provided below for your reading pleasure. If you know of any oxymora that are not here and you believe they would be appropriate for this list, please send them and I’ll incorporate them into these examples (if I agree that they are right for this page). The oxymora shown here are from many sources and new ones keep showing up in the various media. If you do send any to me, please indicate where they came from and (when possible) the names of the persons who said them.

There are some oxymora lists that actually include monopoly as an oxymoron!

Do you think it is one? I maintain that it is not an oxymoron nor can it be one. Do you know why it isn’t? If you would like to know why it can not be an oxymoron, write to me (at and I’ll explain the etymological reasons that disqualify “monopoly” as an oxymoron.

Choose the area that you would like to examine:

| A | B | C| D | E | F | G | H | I | J-K | L | M | N | O| P | Q-R | S | T | U-Z | Quotations | Back to Oxymora Introduction. |

You will also find the pleonasm list of interest.

Mod Words | Extensive Word Searches |
Free Vocabulary-Search Lists | Latin-Greek Quotes |
Confusing-English Words Clarified and Explained |
Vocabulary Quizzes | E-mail Contact: