Examples of Oxymoron in English

Hello, folks! Recently I recorded a podcast episode to EnglishCast explaining the meaning and giving some examples of the word “Oxymoron“. Today I would like to share a little bit more about it. It’s kind of useful and interesting to know it, but first, let me tell you exactly what an oxymoron is.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary for English language learners, an oxymoron, grammatically speaking is a noun, but it means a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings. In other words, two words that have different meanings are used together in the same phrase.

I personally and actually found about it on Facebook through my friend Thaisa Pedron. She shared a photo from the English Forum website, (a very interesting forum where you can improve your English and help others to do the same). And its explanation of the meaning of the oxymoron was more clear and easy to understand.

According to the English Forum:

An oxymoron is usually defined as a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are brought together. Besides this meaning, it gave us some really interesting examples, in this article I’ll try to explain their meaning and usage.

Clearly misunderstood – This is actually a funny oxymoron. If we take a look at the first word we are gonna see the use of the verb “clear”, which usually defines something: in the face, very easy to spot or to understand. But in this example, it comes with the past tense of the verb to misunderstand.

So I think it is clear right here that we may think that such contradictory words could not be used together, but in fact, they can. At least that’s the point of the oxymoron.


I clearly misunderstood what kind of gifts you bring to your babes.

Act naturally – The other interesting oxymoron is “act naturally”. Researching online I found some people who doesn’t think act naturally is an oxymoron. They claim that in the very sense of the word, a person can make it too technical. Let me explain that.

If we take these two words (act and naturally) separately, we’re gonna notice that the verb ACT, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary means:

  • The act of doing something;
  • Something you do voluntarily;
  • The process of doing something;
  • A performer or presenter.

In the last meaning, it is making reference to the actors and actresses when they are working, they are actually “Acting”. In this sense, the act would be a natural thing, if it was the other way around, it’d be considered a manipulated thing.

So when we look at the word “naturally”, we can see the discrepancy between the words and that’s when the oxymoron is formed. Let’s look at one example:


How to make your son act naturally.

Exact Estimate – Other “in the face” oxymoron, for me at least it is clear that something can not be Exact and at the same time you could Estimate it. But you know, in the world of the oxymoron everything seems to be possible.

For lack of creativity, I was not able to create an example for this oxymoron. If you already saw it in use somewhere, please share in the comments area.

Found missing – I’d say that find something that is missing would be a hard thing to do. But it seems that somebody in Denver really did that. Look at the title of this article from Denver digital newspaper.

For this one I think I don’t need to say much, when you find, you find, but when it is missing, it means that we could be looking for it yet. So we haven’t found it.


Police believe they found missing girl’s backpack.

You could say that the “missing” above is an adjective, and you’d be right, but the use of found with missing, is what makes the two words an oxymoron.

Small Crowd – That’s one of my favorite ones. For some of you who already studied the adjectives in English, you probably heard about the adjective SMALL, it means something tiny, not big, nor large. But the crowd, on the other hand, is used when you have a bunch of people at the same place.

So logically is hard to find a small crowd. Unless of course, that the intention of the speaker is to say that there were a lot of people but not that much. So he uses the oxymoron small crowd.


Hamilton welfare rally draws a small crowd.

Happily Married – To end this series of oxymorons, there is this one. One of the funniest, and most interesting of all. Is it possible to be married and at the same time to be happy? That’s kind of what it tries to say. I actually think it is more kind of a joke rather than an oxymoron. =P

So as you can see, oxymorons are well used in the English language. So if you wanna practice more your English with some of those oxymorons and others more, give it a try.

That’s all for now folks! If you have any questions, please, share in the comments area. Cya! =)

Assine nossa Newsletter

Se junte a outros estudantes de inglês iguais a você e assine a newsletter para receber
artigos do Almanaque, perguntas da Sala e ficar informado da publicação de novas dicas de inglês. Não enviamos spam.