ironic

adjective
iron·​ic | \ˌī-ˈrä-nik also i-ˈrä- \
variants: or less commonly ironical \ ˌī-​ˈrä-​ni-​kəl also  i-​ˈrä-​ \

Definition of ironic 

1 : relating to, containing, or constituting irony an ironic remark an ironic coincidence

2 : given to irony an ironic sense of humor

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Other Words from ironic

ironicalness \ ˌī-​ˈrä-​ni-​kəl-​nəs also  i-​ˈrä-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for ironic

sarcastic, satiric, ironic, sardonic mean marked by bitterness and a power or will to cut or sting. sarcastic implies an intentional inflicting of pain by deriding, taunting, or ridiculing. a critic known for his sarcastic remarks satiric implies that the intent of the ridiculing is censure and reprobation. a satiric look at contemporary society ironic implies an attempt to be amusing or provocative by saying usually the opposite of what is meant. made the ironic observation that the government could always be trusted sardonic implies scorn, mockery, or derision that is manifested by either verbal or facial expression. surveyed the scene with a sardonic smile

What's irony?

Considerable thought is given to what events constitute “true” irony, and the dictionary is often called upon to supply an answer. Here are the facts about how the word irony is used.

Irony has two formal uses that are not as common in general prose as its more casual uses. One refers to Socratic irony—a method of revealing an opponent’s ignorance by pretending to be ignorant yourself and asking probing questions. The other refers to dramatic irony or tragic irony—an incongruity between the situation in a drama and the words used by the characters that only the audience can see. Socratic irony is a tool used in debating; dramatic irony is what happens when the audience realizes that Romeo and Juliet’s plans will go awry.

The third, and debated, use of irony regards what’s called situational irony. Situational irony involves a striking reversal of what is expected or intended: a person sidesteps a pothole to avoid injury and in doing so steps into another pothole and injures themselves. Critics claim the word irony and ironic as they are generally used (as in, “Isn’t it ironic that you called just as I was planning to call you?”) can only apply to situational irony, and uses like the one above are more properly called coincidence.

The historical record shows that irony and ironic have been used imprecisely for almost 100 years at least, and often to refer to coincidence. This 1939 quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald is typical: "It is an ironic thought that the last picture job I took—against my better judgment—yielded me five thousand dollars five hundred and cost over four thousand in medical attention." Is this true situational irony? It’s debatable.

The word irony has come to be applied to events that are merely curious or coincidental, and while some feel this is an incorrect use of the word, it is merely a new one.

Examples of ironic in a Sentence

She has an ironic sense of humor. It's ironic that computers break down so often, since they're meant to save people time. It is ironic that the robber's car crashed into a police station.
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Recent Examples on the Web

There’s always a small number of people tuned into disasters like this hoping for the worst or with an ironic detached attitude. Brian Resnick, Vox, "A sociologist explains why we make spectacle out of trauma like the Thai cave boys," 11 July 2018 The video, directed by Noah Applebaum, plays on a wealth of drab office conventions including ironic inspirational posters and cringe-worthy birthday celebrations. Bryan Kress, Billboard, "RIVVRS Heads Back to the Office in 'Don't Wanna Know' Video: Exclusive," 11 July 2018 Kerry Washington, Anna Simpson and Melissa Martinez star as three high-school teens who bond as their school closes down due to asbestos removal (ironic because asbestos is a heat retardant). Erin Ben-moche, latimes.com, "With a heat wave scorching California, here are 10 movies that feel your pain," 6 July 2018 In competitive eating, George Shea created the first true ironic sport, and made a killing along the way. Alejandro De La Garza, Time, "'I Love Things That Are Absurd.' Meet the Man Who Turned Nathan's Hot Dog-Eating Contest Into a National Obsession," 3 July 2018 Whether attendees are proud of the transplanted patriotism or find the display semi-ironic, everyone gets to be in on the fun. Jordan Cutler-tietjen, sacbee, "How some Sacramentans will celebrate Independence Day in a town 4,000 miles from U.S.," 1 July 2018 In an ironic economic twist, a whopping 99% of consumer fireworks are imported from China. Brittany Shoot, Fortune, "Firework Facts: Americans Incinerate $1 Billion in July Fourth Fireworks Every Year," 29 June 2018 The camera observes unobtrusively, and its restraint mimics the emotional restraint of the characters, who go about their dark business with a sense of black, deeply ironic humor. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘Sicario’ sequel is relentlessly grim," 28 June 2018 So, not exactly high times on the open road for the beloved American brand, but the fact that much of its woes stem from Trump, a fellow symbol of the disaffected white working class, seems a touch ironic. Dan Sweeney, Sun-Sentinel.com, "As Harley Davidson moves some manufacturing overseas, have Trump's trade wars started hitting home?," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ironic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ironic

1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for ironic

Last Updated

28 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ironic

The first known use of ironic was in 1576

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More Definitions for ironic

ironic

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of ironic

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

: strange or funny because something (such as a situation) is different from what you expected

ironic

adjective
iron·​ic | \ī-ˈrä-nik \
variants: also ironical \ -​ni-​kəl \

Kids Definition of ironic

: relating to, containing, or showing irony It was ironic that the robber's car crashed into the police station.

Other Words from ironic

ironically \ -​i-​kə-​lē \ adverb

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Comments on ironic

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