sarcasm

noun
sar·​casm | \ ˈsär-ˌka-zəm How to pronounce sarcasm (audio) \

Definition of sarcasm

1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
2a : 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

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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

What is the origin of sarcasm?

If you've ever been hurt by a remark full of cutting sarcasm, you have some insight into the origins of the word. "Sarcasm" can be traced back to the Greek verb sarkazein, which initially meant "to tear flesh like a dog." "Sarkazein" eventually developed extended senses of "to bite one's lips in rage," "to gnash one's teeth," and eventually "to sneer." "Sarkazein" led to the Greek noun sarkasmos, ("a sneering or hurtful remark"), iterations of which passed through French and Late Latin before arriving in English as "sarcasm" in the mid-16th century. Even today sarcasm is often described as sharp, cutting, or wounding, reminiscent of the original meaning of the Greek verb.

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Her exiled Timon is capable of defiant sarcasm, mischievous wit, moments of philosophically amused resignation, and even the suggestion that the life of a hermit has its quiet, self-sufficient satisfactions. Geoffrey O’brien, The New York Review of Books, "A Timon for Our Time," 29 Jan. 2020 Humor, sarcasm and cynicism are ways Hongkongers deal with traumatic moments, and Hong Kong artists South Ho and Kacey Wong have injected these elements into their works. Vivienne Chow, Quartz, "Twelve works of art that chart the emotional upheavals of the Hong Kong protests," 31 Dec. 2019 But sarcasm is also what the English use to show affection, with so many other means of expression closed off to them by broad cultural prohibitions against betraying strong emotion. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "With “London Boy,” the English Delight in Some Fine Mockery of Taylor Swift," 26 Aug. 2019 Building a chair so that people don’t even have to stand might be a little too on-brand for a company whose name already invites some mockery and sarcasm. Adrienne So, Wired, "Segway Is Bringing the Hoverchairs From WALL-E to Life," 3 Jan. 2020 Casual speech often includes offhand comments, partial observations, sarcasm, and false sentiments to either avoid argument or draw a subject out. K.n.c., The Economist, "Surveillance is a fact of life, so make privacy a human right," 13 Dec. 2019 Scrooge’s dialogue, though, drips with the wit and sarcasm of a man whose outlook on life has become jaded over the years, especially around Christmas. Jerald Pierce, chicagotribune.com, "Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Goodman still offers surprises," 27 Nov. 2019 Finch: Honestly, she is modeled very closely after a therapist of mine who was younger than me and had that same dry wit and sarcasm. SELF, "How ‘Grey’s Anatomy' Got That EMDR Therapy Episode So Right," 6 Nov. 2019 All sarcasm aside, this is not just about unsolicited parenting advice. Bethanie Baynes, refinery29.com, "You Know What Dads Don't Need This Father's Day? Momsplaining," 10 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sarcasm.' 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 sarcasm

1619, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for sarcasm

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.

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Time Traveler for sarcasm

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The first known use of sarcasm was in 1619

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Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sarcasm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sarcasm. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for sarcasm

sarcasm

noun
How to pronounce sarcasm (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sarcasm

: the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny

sarcasm

noun
sar·​casm | \ ˈsär-ˌka-zəm How to pronounce sarcasm (audio) \

Kids Definition of sarcasm

: the use of words that normally mean one thing to mean just the opposite usually to hurt someone's feelings or show scorn

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Comments on sarcasm

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