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 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 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 blurred line between what's ironic and what's sincere is a feature of the new far-right that was born on the internet in the Trump era. CNN, "He's an ex-Proud Boy. Here's what he says happens within the group's ranks," 25 Nov. 2020 How ironic and typical that the only charges brought in this case were for shots fired into the apartment of a white neighbor, while no charges were brought for the shots fired into the Black neighbor’s apartment or into Breonna’s residence. Jonathan Bullington, The Courier-Journal, "Breonna Taylor's family dismayed by decision: 'I'm mad as hell because nothing's changing'," 23 Sep. 2020 How ironic and typical that the only charges brought in this case were for shots fired into the apartment of a white neighbor, while no charges were brought for the shots fired into the Black neighbor’s apartment or into Breonna’s residence. Jonathan Bullington, USA TODAY, "Breonna Taylor's family dismayed by indictment: 'I'm mad as hell because nothing's changing'," 23 Sep. 2020 How ironic that the brand's answer to these nonsensical times is to offer that an utterly absurd new beverage concept! Olivia Harrison, refinery29.com, "In 2020, Soda Is A Sleep Aid & Water Is Caffeinated, Because Of Course," 15 Sep. 2020 Based on a design by Victor Edelstein, the ensemble has a distinct — and ironic — bridal feel that’s more grown-up than her Cinderella wedding dress. Los Angeles Times, "How ‘The Crown’ captured Princess Diana’s evolution from shy teen to style icon," 15 Nov. 2020 Which is not a little ironic now, given the current unrest. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "Former Dallas Cowboy Russell Maryland is still grinding, this time against racism in Southlake," 30 Oct. 2020 In a way, the home winning streak is ironic considering UAB’s rival schools in Conference USA for years and years used UAB’s own home field against the Blazers in recruiting battles. Joseph Goodman | Jgoodman@al.com, al, "Streaks collide for UAB, Bill Clark against Louisiana," 23 Oct. 2020 That’s quite ironic coming from the head of a company whose products are used in operations that contribute to serious human rights violations. Michael Kleinman, Fortune, "As Palantir goes public, consider its troubling human rights record," 30 Sep. 2020

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

2 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ironic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ironic. Accessed 4 Dec. 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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