iron·​ic | \ ˌī-ˈrä-nik How to pronounce ironic (audio) also i-ˈrä- \
variants: or less commonly ironical \ ˌī-​ˈrä-​ni-​kəl also  i-​ˈrä-​ How to pronounce ironic (audio) \

Essential Meaning of ironic

1 : using words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny an ironic remark She has an ironic sense of humor. an ironic writing style
2 : strange or funny because something (such as a situation) is different from what you expected 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.

Full 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

Other Words from ironic

ironicalness \ ˌī-​ˈrä-​ni-​kəl-​nəs How to pronounce ironic (audio) 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 words irony and ironic as they are used in cases lacking a striking reversal, such as “Isn’t it ironic that you called just as I was planning to call you?,” 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 The ironic thing about these inflation fears: A big part of the reason inflation is here today is because demand is booming as the economy recovers from Covid faster than many imagined possible back in March 2020. Matt Egan, CNN, 17 Nov. 2021 The subtext was ironic: fellow-billionaires, prepare your bids. Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker, 10 Dec. 2021 That is a little ironic as Spielberg tried to get major theater chains to play streaming Oscar contenders, comments that were widely misinterpreted as the filmmaker having a bias against streaming platforms. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 My experience in the war was ironic because my previous innocence had prepared me to encounter in it something like the same reasonableness that governed prewar life. Paul Fussell, Harper's Magazine, 23 Nov. 2021 How ironic to find myself suddenly on the other end and missing that juggling act. NBC News, 24 Sep. 2021 What is ironic is that just two years after the game’s release, the US openly applauded a right-wing coup d'état against Morales’ government, which saw a significant spike in anti-indigenous violence and a rise in far-right political mobilization. Gabriel Solis, Wired, 29 Oct. 2021 That’s ironic considering Moore was intending to retire after For Your Eyes Only. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 That's ironic considering the island is known for its beaches, and this busy, sprawling town full of yoga studios, vegan cafes, shops, spas, and markets is a 30-minute motorbike ride from the nearest stretch of sand. Kathryn Romeyn, Travel + Leisure, 16 July 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near ironic

iron hydroxide



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Last Updated

13 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ironic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for ironic


iron·​ic | \ ī-ˈrä-nik How to pronounce ironic (audio) \
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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