What is an oxymoron?

Oxymorons are descriptions that use two words that are completely the opposite.

A lot of the time oxymorons should be avoided as they look weird (‘inadvertent oxymorons’ are oxymorons people make by mistake).

However, sometimes an oxymoron can be used to create an interesting description. Some oxymorons have become common phrases.

Examples of oxymorons

an open secret
(something that is supposed to be a secret, but everybody can know it)

a minor crisis
(a crisis, but not as big a crisis as another bigger crisis – used when something bad happens, but it is not the worst thing that could happen)

the only choice
(a person has to choose, but they only have one choice that actually would work)

alone together
(used when two people are together, everyone and everything else very far away)

victorious defeat
(a defeat that others celebrate, as good as or better than actually winning)

Oxymorons in quotes

Some famous quotes use oxymorons:

‘The coldest winter I have ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’ (Mark Twain)

‘The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep’ (WC Fields)

‘If I could drop dead right now, I’d be the happiest man alive’ (Samuel Goldwyn)

‘To lead the people, walk behind them’ (Lao-Tzu)

‘Simplicity is not a simple thing’ (Charlie Chaplin)

‘Always be sincere, even when you don’t mean it’ (Irene Peter)