Goto next slide"Irony"

When:

Lookups peaked on November 19, 2012.

Why:

"How to Live Without Irony," an essay in the New York Times, generated a lot of discussion online and offline.

Whether or not readers agreed with the critique ("If irony is the ethos of our age – and it is – then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living") many people went to the dictionary to explore the meaning of a notoriously slippery word.

Irony means "the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning." This definition is now often broadened beyond just words; an example given in the article is that of a young adult man wearing a Justin Bieber T-shirt next to a young teenage girl wearing the same T-shirt.

Irony comes from the Greek word that means "one who hides under a false appearance."

It's also likely that many people look up the word irony because the word ironic is often used to mean surprising or coincidental. We've even made an Ask the Editor video about this confusion.

Photo: Adam Lisagor / flickr