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 nothing ironic about bringing that message to Dartmouth College or to any community in America. WSJ, "Law, Dartmouth and Corporate Personhood," 10 Feb. 2019 The Writers meme began as an ironic little chuckle, a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction one-liner. Constance Grady, Vox, "What it means that we keep talking about America like it’s a TV show," 27 Dec. 2018 This may seem like an ironic gift for a man who newspaper publishers once railed against as the destroyer of classified ads, a high-margin pillar in broadsheet and tabloid profits. Glenn Fleishman, Fortune, "Craigslist Founder Donates $20 Million To Endow Journalism Program," 11 June 2018 Courtsey This distaste for anger might seem ironic to anyone who watched two candidates on both ends of the political spectrum—Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders—wildly succeed by leveraging that exact emotion. Julie Zeilinger, Marie Claire, "The Women Who Ran...and Lost," 24 Oct. 2018 Seems a little ironic, though, since sort of your entire sort of fame/clout comes in large part from Twitter. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Republican fury about ‘bias’ on the internet is just a distraction, ThinkProgress founder Judd Legum says," 30 Aug. 2018 That Scalia wrote the opinion in Smith, the case about Native American use of peyote, seems ironic. Christopher Shea, Vox, "Why Jeff Sessions thinks Christians are under siege in America," 1 Aug. 2018 That same style — an eye for unusual with an ironic twist — is also apparent in his new, hauntingly beautiful Fall/Winter collection for e-invitation company Paperless Post. Jen Derose, House Beautiful, "Eerily Elegant Invitations: John Derian's Fall Collection for Paperless Post," 20 Sep. 2012 The memes themselves were an attempt at ironic humor, since no one believes a girl as nice and innocent as Brown would actually be filled with hate, but at the end of the day, the initial intent doesn't matter. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "Millie Bobby Brown's Anti-Bullying Speech Isn't The Whole Story," 19 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

18 Feb 2019

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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More from Merriam-Webster on ironic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ironic

Spanish Central: Translation of ironic

Nglish: Translation of ironic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ironic for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ironic

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excited commotion or publicity

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