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contradiction in terms

A phrase or expression that causes confusion because it contains words or ideas that contradict each other; an oxymoron. Jumbo shrimp is such a contradiction in terms.
See also: contradiction, term

contradiction in terms

a statement containing a seeming contradiction. A wealthy pauper is a contradiction in terms. A straight-talking politician may seem to be a contradiction in terms.
See also: contradiction, term

a contradiction in terms

a phrase that is confusing because it contains words that seem to have opposite meanings A British summer is a bit of a contradiction in terms. Euro Disney always seems to me a contradiction in terms because Disney is so typically American.
See also: contradiction, term

contradiction in terms

A statement that seems to contradict itself, with one part of it denying another. For example, I've always believed that "a poor millionaire" was a contradiction in terms. [Late 1700s]
See also: contradiction, term
References in classic literature ?
Separated one from the other, and thus relieved of their own habitual interchange of contradiction, neither of them had ever been known to attempt the relation of the simplest series of events without breaking down.
Such was the mode in which I often began these brief dialogues; the time was always just at the conclusion of the lesson; and motioning to her to rise, I installed myself in her place, allowing her to stand deferentially at my side; for I esteemed it wise and right in her case to enforce strictly all forms ordinarily in use between master and pupil; the rather because I perceived that in proportion as my manner grew austere and magisterial, hers became easy and self-possessed--an odd contradiction, doubtless, to the ordinary effect in such cases; but so it was.
Speak," I continued, impatiently; "I never like the appearance of acquiescence when the reality is not there; and you had a contradiction at your tongue's end.
Such passages will be found, however, to be based upon facts admitting of no contradiction, and which have come immediately under the writer's cognizance.
Her tenderness for her friend seemed rather the first feeling of her heart; but that at such a moment was allowable; and once she gave her lover a flat contradiction, and once she drew back her hand; but Catherine remembered Henry's instructions, and placed it all to judicious affection.
The case is this: my father's health is growing noticeably worse, he cannot stand any contradiction and is becoming irritable.
There's a total disregard of the first claims of prudence and economy implied in this small slip of paper which is nothing less than a flat contradiction of the principles that have governed my whole life.
Second, errors of theory on the fate in store for the said projectile; for in making it a satellite of the moon, it was putting it in direct contradiction of all mechanical laws.
The principles of definition, the law of contradiction, the fallacy of arguing in a circle, the distinction between the essence and accidents of a thing or notion, between means and ends, between causes and conditions; also the division of the mind into the rational, concupiscent, and irascible elements, or of pleasures and desires into necessary and unnecessary-- these and other great forms of thought are all of them to be found in the Republic, and were probably first invented by Plato.
Yea, this ego, with its contradiction and perplexity, speaketh most uprightly of its being--this creating, willing, evaluing ego, which is the measure and value of things.
Kit was for a moment disposed to be vexed by this contradiction, and not the less so from having anticipated it in his own mind and knowing how just it was.
Paul Smith & The Intimations will play The Cluny Newcastle on September 4 as part of a small UK tour following the release of their debut album Contradictions.
The Great Recession and the Contradictions of Contemporary Capitalism
A resolution on human rights in Azerbaijan passed by the European Parliament Thursday is full of legal contradictions, which raise questions about the motives of the MEPs behind it, an Azerbaijani MP said.
But sometimes it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works to resolve the tensions within.