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I was recently invited to a "farewell reception," a gathering to celebrate a couple who are soon leaving the community. And it occurred to me that "farewell reception" is an oxymoron.

Is "reception" used correctly here. Is there a better word?

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It is a good word. It's an occasion where guests are received. –  z7sg Ѫ Jun 8 '11 at 14:35
    
-1; In all seriousness, why would this be an oxymoron? –  MrHen Jun 8 '11 at 14:50
    
@MrHen Probably because reception in most dictionaries is greeting someone. Combining it with farewell may seem awkward. –  Philoto Jun 8 '11 at 14:55
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@Unreason I don't think you should vote based on other peoples' votes, just whether you think it is a good question. –  z7sg Ѫ Jun 8 '11 at 15:37
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@z7sg, on other so sites even that is rather common; however in this instance I actually did like it. I opened meta.english.stackexchange.com/questions/1327/… if there is more to discuss –  Unreason Jun 8 '11 at 16:21
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

"Reception" is a perfectly valid word here; the hosts are receiving visitors still. The purpose of the reception is a separate matter.

Alternatively you could say "farewell gathering" or "farewell party" depending on just what would be happening. If you were feeling particularly fancy you could call it a "valediction party", and you might get away with just a "valediction" though that's stretching the meaning of the word a little.

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Thanks. I had always thought a reception was intended to welcome (receive) someone new, like a wedding reception receiving a new couple. Receiving the guests makes sense too. –  Doug Jun 9 '11 at 1:53
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According to Merriam-Webster reception is

a social gathering

or, to be more precise

a formal party for guests, such as one after a wedding

form here

Neither YourDictionary nor Free Dictionary agree with this definition

Personally, I'm pretty sure, that in formal speech reception is indeed used as a synonym to meeting or gathering. In informal speech most probably I would've used "farewell party"

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The first meaning listed in macmillan for reception is

a formal party to welcome someone or to celebrate something

(Sense of "ceremonial gathering" is 1882, from French.)

so a farewell reception would be an oxymoron if the meaning was only to welcome. In this case it is logical to assume the second meaning: a "formal party" at which you celebrate someone's departure and wish them farewell.

Farewell as adjective

done in order to celebrate the fact that someone is leaving a place or job

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