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

How ironic that out of the 21 presidential wannabes in that last election cycle, only the billionaire New Yorker detected and tapped into that ferment. Andrew Malcolm,, "Is Donald Trump chief executive or executive producer?," 28 June 2018 In an ironic twist, though, the makers of that firmware have introduced anti-piracy code to prevent people from pirating their own work. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Switch pirates don’t want you to pirate their piracy-enabling firmware," 28 June 2018 How ironic if that turns out to be his saving grace. Monica Davey, New York Times, "Who Is Rod Blagojevich? And How Does He Know President Trump?," 31 May 2018 The difficulty of marketing Chappaquiddick seems ironic, given that the movie itself exposes a cynical public relations campaign. J.r. Jones, Chicago Reader, "Chappaquiddick: How to spin a movie about spin?," 19 Apr. 2018 That would be an ironic undercutting of Brexiteer plans to use car imports for leverage: a back door for Germany, created by Mr Trump. The Economist, "The promised post-Brexit trade deal with America may never materialise," 5 Apr. 2018 The ironic inefficiency of hyper-exaggerated high-end entertaining spaces belies a truth: These spaces aren’t really designed for entertaining. Kate Wagner, Curbed, "Our homes don’t need formal spaces," 11 July 2018 Its elimination places an ironic underscore on the region’s housing crisis: The bus drivers’ temporary bedsits may have to make way for permanent development. Wendy Lee,, "Silicon Valley bus drivers sleep in parking lots. They may have to make way for development," 25 June 2018 Sure seems ironic for college football players to wear cleats with money printed all over when they can’t get paid. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Football fans had plenty of jokes for Nebraska's money-themed Adidas cleats," 9 May 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

5 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for ironic

The first known use of ironic was in 1576

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More Definitions for ironic



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


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

What made you want to look up ironic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make amends

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