Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
December 18th, 2014
Episode 49 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 18, 2014 is: oxymoron \ahk-sih-MOR-ahn\ noun : a combination of contradictory or incongruous words; broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements Examples: "That's an oxymoron!" said Joanne, when she heard the DJ describe the song as an "instant classic." "A 'healthy snack' sounds like an oxymoron. The two words seem to be on opposite ends. But that does not have to be the case." Karen Miller, The Boston Banner, October 23, 2014 Did you know? The Greeks exhaustively classified the elements of rhetoric, or effective speech and writing, and gave the name oxymōron, literally "pointed foolishness," to the deliberate juxtaposing of seemingly contradictory words. The roots of oxymoron, oxys meaning "sharp" or "keen" and mōros meaning "foolish," are nearly antonyms themselves, making oxymoron nicely self-descriptive. Oxymoron originally applied to a meaningful paradox condensed into a couple of words, as in "precious bane," "lonely crowd," or "sweet sorrow." Today, however, oxymoron can also refer to unintentional contradictions, like "a plastic glass."