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.


Oxymoron exampleMeaning
an open secretsomething that is supposed to be a secret, but everybody can know it
a minor crisisa crisis, but not a ‘big’ crisis
the only choicealthough there is technically a choice, only one option is serious
alone togethertwo people are together, and everyone and everything else is very far away
victorious defeata defeat that is 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
To lead the people, walk behind them

– Lao-Tzu
The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep

– WC Fields
Simplicity is not a simple thing

– Charlie Chaplin
If I could drop dead right now, I’d be the happiest man alive

– Samuel Goldwyn
Always be sincere, even when you don’t mean it

– Irene Peter