ironic

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

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 How to pronounce ironicalness (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 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 Her brush with social media has had an ironic turn of events. Sanaya Chandar, Quartz India, "You’ve probably seen Geeta Kale’s visiting card. Now, here’s the domestic help’s real story," 10 Nov. 2019 What’s ironic, though, is that the album is not cleverly cheeky. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Five Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Discuss Lewis Capaldi's Hot 100 Climb With 'Someone You Loved'," 1 Oct. 2019 The fish tube became sweet, sweet, semi-ironic oblivion. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "Dive Into the Existential Escapism of the Fish Tube," 19 Aug. 2019 Is there anything ironic or paradoxical about deciding what is and isn’t a prudential judgment? Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "Why the Editor of Christianity Today Decided to Rebuke Trump," 21 Dec. 2019 This might seem ironic, but the world’s largest event celebrating tiny living is this weekend in Orlando. Patrick Connolly, orlandosentinel.com, "World’s largest tiny house festival is in Orlando this weekend," 22 Nov. 2019 His Dark Materials verged, at times, on the soulless (ironic, for a show about souls). Wired Staff, Wired, "The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows of 2019," 20 Dec. 2019 Unlike that of the late-aughts hipster, their taste for the antiquated isn’t ironic; it’s less twee than timeless. Emma Bazilian, House Beautiful, "The Rise of 'Grandmillennial' Style," 5 Sep. 2019 The optics were both awkward and ironic: Warren, a white woman, poised to give speech about the disruptive power of black women activists, was being disrupted by black women activists. Charlotte Alter, Time, "Elizabeth Warren Needs Black Women To Vote For Her. Here's Her Plan to Win Their Support," 22 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for ironic

Time Traveler

The first known use of ironic was in 1576

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ironic.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ironical. Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for ironic

ironic

adjective
How to pronounce ironic (audio)

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 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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More from Merriam-Webster on ironic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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