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Examples of Oxymorons

As with many other literary and rhetorical devices, oxymorons are used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they are used to create some sort of drama for the reader or listener, and sometimes they are used to make the person stop and think, whether it’s to laugh or to ponder.
One famous oxymoron is the phrase “the same difference.” This phrase qualifies as an oxymoron because the words “same” and “difference” have completely opposite meanings. Therefore, bringing them together into one phrase produces a verbally puzzling, yet engaging, effect.

Oxymorons from Everyday Life

Whether you know it or not, you have probably used, or at least heard, some oxymorons in your every day life.

  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Cruel to be kind
  • Pain for pleasure
  • Clearly confused
  • Act naturally
  • Painfully beautiful
  • Deafening silence
  • Pretty ugly
  • Pretty fierce
  • Pretty cruel
  • Definitely maybe
  • Living dead
  • Walking dead
  • Only choice
  • Amazingly awful
  • Alone together
  • Virtual reality
  • Random order
  • Original copy
  • Happy tears
  • Disgustingly delicious
  • Run slowly
  • Awfully good
  • Awfully delicious
  • Small crowd
  • Dark light
  • Open secret
  • Passive aggressive
  • Appear invisible
  • Awfully lucky
  • Awfully pretty
  • Big baby
  • Wake up dead
  • Farewell reception
  • Growing smaller
  • Least favorite
  • True myth
  • Weirdly normal
  • Worthless gold
  • Heavy diet
  • Noticeable absence
  • Quiet presence
  • Short wait
  • Sweet agony

Oxymorons in Sayings and Quotes

There are some well-known sentences and quotations that make use of oxymorons. Seeing oxymorons used in context often helps to provide a better idea of how and why they are used.

  • “I like a smuggler. He is the only honest thief.” – Charles Lamb
  • “I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.” – Oscar Wilde
  • “And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.” – Alfred Tennyson
  • “Modern dancing is so old fashioned.” – Samuel Goldwyn
  • “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” – Henry Ford
  • “I am busy doing nothing.” – Oxymorons
  • “A little pain never hurt anyone.” – Word Explorations
  • “I am a deeply superficial person.” – Andy Warhol
  • “No one goes to that restaurant anymore – It’s always too crowded.” – Yogi Berra
  • “We are not anticipating any emergencies.” – Word Explorations
  • “A joke is actually an extremely really serious issue.” – Winston Churchill
  • “I like humanity, but I loathe persons.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “I generally advise persons never ever to present assistance.” – P.G. Wodehouse

For more oxymoron quotes, take a look at Examples of Funny Oxymoron Quotes.

Purpose of Oxymorons

Why use phrases that do not seem to make any logical sense?

Dramatic Effect

Saying that a picture or a scene is “painfully beautiful” calls attention to the speaker and the object of inquiry. Such a phrase shows that an object can have two different qualities at once, making it a subject for study and analysis.

Adding Flavor to Speech

When someone says a phrase such as “naturally weird” or “clearly confused,” the speaker is finding a new way to describe that individual or object. Adding the adverb “naturally” to the first phrase makes it even more apparent that the subject of discussion is rather unusual, as opposed to the effect that simply the word “weird” would have.

For Entertainment

Sometimes people are not trying to make a profound declaration when they use oxymorons. Instead, they want to be witty and to show that the can use words to make people laugh. One example of this use of oxymoron is the example in which Oscar Wilde comically reflects on the fact that he “can resist anything, except temptation”.


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