noun iro·ny \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\

Definition of irony



  1. 1 :  a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony

  2. 2 a :  the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning b :  a usually humorous or sardonic literary style or form characterized by irony c :  an ironic expression or utterance

  3. 3 a (1) :  incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) :  an event or result marked by such incongruity b :  incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony, tragic irony

Examples of irony in a sentence

  1. The great irony of human intelligence is that the only species on Earth capable of reason, complex-problem solving, long-term planning and consciousness understands so little about the organ that makes it all possible—the brain. —Amanda Bower, Time, 20 Aug. 2001

  2. The great irony of anthracite is that, tough as it is to light, once you get it lit it's nearly impossible to put out. —Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods, 1999

  3. And the irony is obvious: those who once had been the victims of separatism, who had sacrificed so dearly to overcome their being at the margins, would later create an ethos of their own separatism. —Shelby Steele, Harper's, July 1992

  4. a writer known for her clever use of irony

  5. What a beautiful view, he said, his voice dripping with irony, as he looked out the window at the alley.

  6. She described her vacation with heavy irony as an educational experience.

  7. It was a tragic irony that he made himself sick by worrying so much about his health.

  8. That's just one of life's little ironies.

  9. The irony of the situation was apparent to everyone.

  10. He has a strong sense of irony.

Origin and Etymology of irony

Latin ironia, from Greek eirōnia, from eirōn dissembler

First Known Use: 1502

Synonym Discussion of irony

wit, humor, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee mean a mode of expression intended to arouse amusement. wit suggests the power to evoke laughter by remarks showing verbal felicity or ingenuity and swift perception especially of the incongruous <a playful wit>. humor implies an ability to perceive the ludicrous, the comical, and the absurd in human life and to express these usually without bitterness <a sense of humor>. irony applies to a manner of expression in which the intended meaning is the opposite of what is seemingly expressed <the irony of the title>. sarcasm applies to expression frequently in the form of irony that is intended to cut or wound <given to heartless sarcasm>. satire applies to writing that exposes or ridicules conduct, doctrines, or institutions either by direct criticism or more often through irony, parody, or caricature <a satire on the Congress>. repartee implies the power of answering quickly, pointedly, or wittily <a dinner guest noted for repartee>.

IRONY Defined for English Language Learners


noun iro·ny \ˈī-rə-nē also ˈī(-ə)r-nē\

Definition of irony for English Language Learners

  • : the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny

  • : a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected

IRONY Defined for Kids


noun iro·ny \ˈī-rə-nē\

Definition of irony for Students



  1. 1 :  the use of words that mean the opposite of what is really meant

  2. 2 :  a result opposite to what was expected

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a Mesopotamian temple tower

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