noun \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\

: the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny

: a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected

plural iro·nies

Full Definition of IRONY

:  a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony
a :  the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
b :  a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony
c :  an ironic expression or utterance
a (1) :  incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) :  an event or result marked by such incongruity
b :  incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony

Examples of IRONY

  1. a writer known for her clever use of irony
  2. What a beautiful view, he said, his voice dripping with irony, as he looked out the window at the alley.
  3. She described her vacation with heavy irony as an educational experience.
  4. It was a tragic irony that he made himself sick by worrying so much about his health.
  5. That's just one of life's little ironies.
  6. The irony of the situation was apparent to everyone.
  7. He has a strong sense of irony.
  8. The great irony of human intelligence is that the only species on Earth capable of reason, complex-problem solving, long-term planning and consciousness understands so little about the organ that makes it all possible—the brain. —Amanda Bower, Time, 20 Aug. 2001

Origin of IRONY

Latin ironia, from Greek eirōnia, from eirōn dissembler
First Known Use: 1502

Other Literature Terms

apophasis, bathos, bildungsroman, bowdlerize, caesura, coda, doggerel, euphemism, poesy, prosody


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Language device in which the real intent is concealed or contradicted by the literal meaning of words or a situation. Verbal irony, either spoken or written, arises from an awareness of contrast between what is and what ought to be. Dramatic irony, an incongruity in a theatrical work between what is expected and what occurs, depends on the structure of a play rather than its use of words, and it is often created by the audience's awareness of a fate in store for the characters that they themselves do not suspect. See also figure of speech.


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