ironic

adjective
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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web 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 This worry about mixing the central bank and the budget was ironic, given the cross-pollination that already exists. Judy Shelton, WSJ, 13 Oct. 2021 Calling this a half-point is meant to be ironic: This is a massive change in how CSPs are conceptualizing, designing and deploying their network, not to mention the changes to their business model. Paul Miller, Forbes, 1 Oct. 2021 Which is ironic, because Van Peebles would become better known as inspiration — as a case study in how to have a thoughtful career as a Black director. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, 30 Sep. 2021 In an ironic twist, the use of browser privacy plug-ins designed to thwart tracking can actually help make your fingerprint more unique. Ken Colburn, The Arizona Republic, 13 Sep. 2021 The ironic twist about Denali National Park is that only a small number of visitors actually ever get to see the mountain for which the park is named. Washington Post, 3 Sep. 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.

See More

First Known Use of ironic

1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Learn More About ironic

Dictionary Entries Near ironic

iron hydroxide

ironic

ironically

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ironic

Last Updated

9 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ironic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ironic. Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ironic

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

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!