Good grief. Crash landing. Cheerful pessimist.

These words are examples of oxymorons. An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two words with contradictory meanings are placed side-by-side. Take "good grief." Grief isn't traditionally thought of as good, so the words are a paradox.

Some oxymorons are so common that you might not even realize they're inherently contradictory. For instance, if you've ever replied to a party invitation with, "I'm a definite maybe," then you're using an oxymoron.

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Examples of Oxymorons

Writers have been using oxymorons for hundreds of years to express humor or irony. Shakespeare's famous line, "Parting is such sweet sorrow," is a great example. "Sorrow" typically isn't thought of as "sweet." Paul Simon's famous song, "The Sound of Silence," is another example of an oxymoron: how can silence have a sound?

Our Top 25 Oxymorons

Oxymorons have been around forever. Here's a list of 25 of our favorites.

  • alone together
  • bittersweet
  • civil war
  • clearly misunderstood
  • crash landing
  • deceptively honest
  • devout atheist
  • dull roar
  • exact estimate
  • found missing
  • genuine imitation
  • growing smaller
  • icy hot
  • ill health
  • impossible solution
  • living dead
  • loosely sealed
  • militant pacifist
  • negative income
  • original copy
  • plastic silverware
  • pretty ugly
  • random order
  • small crowd
  • unbiased opinion

Final Thoughts

What do you think? Did that list surprise you? I, for one, totally forgot that "plastic silverware" is an oxymoron. Let us know if we captured your favorite oxymorons in the comments.

Common Questions about Oxymoron

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