Hayley Milliman
Marketing and Customer Support Ninja
Published Jun 06, 2019

Picture of plastic silverware

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.

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?

  1. The Top 25 Oxymorons
  2. Final Thoughts

The 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.

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Hayley Milliman
Marketing and Customer Support Ninja

Hayley is a former teacher turned writer who works for ProWritingAid as a marketing and customer support associate. Hayley loves writing content that's engaging and informative. Bonus points if it's about Star Wars. She co-wrote the book Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

My favorite oxymoron is "military intelligence".
By olsawblade1 on 13 June 2019, 03:36 AM
This is an awfully nice article
By cttalbot on 13 June 2019, 12:55 PM
A few of these aren't oxymorons. For instance, the dull in "dull roar" is referring to the sound not being sharp & clear. And how does unbiased opinion get classified as an oxymoron? People can form an opinion based on facts, as well as prejudice. In fact everything is an opinion, such as the world is round. There's of course lots of proof that the world is round, which makes it fact as well as opinion, but it's still an opinion.
By rustgold on 16 June 2019, 12:49 PM