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 English Vocabulary for ESL learners 


OXYMORONS

Oxymorons: figures of speech that use two contradictory words.



  What is an oxymoron? 

An oxymoron is a combination of two words that seem to mean the opposite of each other, such as  'pretty ugly'.

For example, in the sentence "The boss said it was a minor crisis", the words "minor" (unimportant) and "crisis" (serious problem) have opposite meanings.

The word 'oxymoron' comes from the Greek words 'oxus' (sharp) and 'moros' (dull or stupid).

Strange as they may seem, oxymorons are part of our everyday speech.
They are used for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they are used to create emphasis.
Sometimes people are just trying to be amusing and make others laugh.

Here are some popular oxymorons in sentences that show how they are used
  • act naturally
    • When I introduce you to my parents, just act naturally!

  • awfully nice
    • The old lady may seem a bit reserved but she’s an awfully nice person.

  • clearly confused
    • The visitors were clearly confused by the directions they were given.

  • exact estimate
    • I’m afraid we are unable to give you an exact estimate of the cost.

  • fine mess
    • Alex and his friends have got themselves into another fine mess.

  • old news
    • It’s all over between Tom and Jennifer. Their love story is old news now.

  • open secret
    • It’s been an open secret for some time that the two companies are going to merge.

  • organised mess
    • He was able to find the document quite quickly in his organised mess.

  • perfect idiot
    • Jack behaved like a perfect idiot! No wonder Emily left him.

  • pretty ugly
    • I must say I find the new art centre pretty ugly.

  • relative stranger
    • The child was saved by a relative stranger.

  • simply superb
    • He invented an intricate mechanism that is simply superb!

  • small crowd
    • There was just a small crowd of onlookers when we arrived at the scene.

  • working holiday/vacation
    • Believe me! My trip to the Bahamas was very much a working holiday.



Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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