sarcasm

noun

sar·​casm ˈsär-ˌka-zəm How to pronounce sarcasm (audio)
1
: a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
2
a
: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual
b
: the use or language of sarcasm

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sarcasm the same as irony?

Sarcasm refers to the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say, especially in order to insult someone, or to show irritation, or just to be funny. For example, saying "they're really on top of things" to describe a group of people who are very disorganized is using sarcasm. Most often, sarcasm is biting, and intended to cause pain. Irony can also refer to the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say; the "they're really on top of things" statement about the very disorganized group of people can also be described as an ironic statement. But irony can also refer to a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected; for example, it is ironic if someone who was raised by professional musicians but who wanted a very different kind of life then fell in love with and married a professional musician.

What is the plural of sarcasm?

Sarcasm is what we refer to as a noncount noun ("a noun that denotes a homogeneous substance or a concept without subdivisions and that in English is preceded in indefinite singular constructions by some rather than a or an"), and has no plural form.

What are some synonyms for sarcasm?

Sarcasm shares some semantic territory with a number of other English words, including wit, repartee, and humor. While most of these are in some way concerned with inducing laughter, sarcasm stands alone in denoting caustic language that is designed to cut or give pain.

Choose the Right Synonym for sarcasm

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

Examples of sarcasm in a Sentence

"That was my favorite show yet this tour," Banks says. "I love audiences that are ambivalent." For a second, I think he's laying on the sarcasm, until he continues. "I really like the chance to win people over." David Peisner, Spin, August 2007
"The best part of being single," Bryce Donovan jokes, "is being able to choose any woman I want to shoot me down." Such self-deprecating sarcasm is the trademark of this newsman's four-year-old weekly column "It Beats Working" in the Charleston Post and Courier. People, 26 June 2006
"But see," I say … "in my line of work I'm supposed to dress in a way that makes clients feel sorry for me, or better yet superior to me. I think I accomplish that pretty well." Paul looks over at me again with a distasteful look that might be ready to slide into sarcasm, only he doesn't know if I'm making fun of him. He says nothing. Richard Ford, Independence Day, (1995) 1996
a voice full of sarcasm I know you're not happy, but there's no need to resort to petty sarcasms to make your point.
Recent Examples on the Web These unique cards offer a lighthearted and witty take on traditional affirmations, boosting positivity with a touch of sarcasm. Poppy Morgan, Rolling Stone, 22 Nov. 2023 Misinterpreting his mother’s sarcasm, sneaky Grant puts Jackie’s address instead of his aunt’s address into the GPS before leaving for their family road trip. Courtney Howard, Variety, 16 Nov. 2023 The lyrics capture some of that anger with sarcasm and dry humor in the lyrics. Tomás Mier, Rolling Stone, 16 Nov. 2023 The script incorporates elements of humor, sarcasm and Ho’s contemplation on the impact of COVID-19. Sophia Sun, Variety, 6 Nov. 2023 Perry was a sarcasm ninja, honoring both the barb and the inevitable insecurity that launched it. Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times, 29 Oct. 2023 Friends was the king of prime time and Perry its court jester, a floppy-haired virtuoso of sarcasm and comic timing, but his 28-day stint in Hazelden for Vicodin, splashed across gossip rags, told a darker tale, one that would outlast his TV show’s long run. Sarah Hepola, Rolling Stone, 31 Oct. 2023 As the wisecracking Chandler Bing, Perry brought his signature sarcasm to a playful group that quickly became one of TV’s most iconic ensemble casts. Alexandra Del Rosario, Los Angeles Times, 30 Oct. 2023 Perry’s Chandler was the snarky, self-deprecating friend of the group, but his sarcasm hid a deeper insecurity and awkwardness that was played for some of the show’s biggest laughs. Jordan Moreau, Variety, 28 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sarcasm.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

earlier sarcasmus, borrowed from Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French sarcasme, borrowed from Late Latin sarcasmos "mockery," borrowed from Late Greek sarkasmós, from Greek sarkázein "to jeer at while biting the lips" (in galen; perhaps, if the original sense was "to bite or strip off flesh," derivative of sark-, sárx "flesh") + -smos, suffix of verbal action — more at sarco-

Note: The original sense of the Greek verb sarkázein is conjectural, as all instances referring to jeering or mockery come from late or post-classical sources, generally lexica. The sole significant early uses are in Aristophanes' play Peace, where the Megarians, while pulling boulders from the entrance to a cave, are described as performing the action of the verb sarkázein "like mean (?) curs," while perishing from hunger ("hoi Megarês … hélkousin d' hómōs glischrótata sarkázontes hṓsper kynídia"); and in the Hippocratic treatise "On Joints" (Perì Arthrôn), where the verb is used to describe hoofed animals eating grass. In both cases the interpretation of sarkázein is far from transparent.

First Known Use

1619, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sarcasm was in 1619

Dictionary Entries Near sarcasm

Cite this Entry

“Sarcasm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sarcasm. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

sarcasm

noun
sar·​casm ˈsär-ˌkaz-əm How to pronounce sarcasm (audio)
: the use of words that mean the opposite of what the speaker really thinks in order to insult, show irritation, or be funny
Etymology

from French sarcasme or Latin sarcasmos, both meaning "sarcasm," from Greek sarkasmos "sarcasm," from sarkazein "to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer," from sark-, sarx "flesh"

Word Origin
Anyone who has suffered from the sarcastic remarks of others will not be too surprised to learn that sarcasm, "a cutting remark," comes from a Greek verb, sarkazein, that literally means "to tear flesh like a dog." Very early, though, this Greek verb came to mean "to bite one's lip in rage," and "to gnash one's teeth," and finally "to sneer." The Greek noun sarkasmos, from which the English sarcasm comes, meant "a sneering or hurtful remark." But even today sarcasm is often described as sharp, cutting, or wounding, recalling in a faint way the original meaning of the Greek verb.

More from Merriam-Webster on sarcasm

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