sar·​don·​ic sär-ˈdä-nik How to pronounce sardonic (audio)
: disdainfully or skeptically humorous : derisively mocking
a sardonic comment
sardonically adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for sardonic

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

Examples of sardonic in a Sentence

"The Great War," used interchangeably with "the First World War" (so named in 1918 by a sardonic English journalist, who knew it would not be the last such conflict) … Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic, May 1999
They have that brand of sardonic humor special to people up against it: black and wry and shocking … Doris Lessing, New Yorker, 16 Mar. 1987
In a story by Flaubert, this spreading of cloths to save the carpet would be observed with a sardonic eye; in Lawrence it is bleakly practical. Hugh Kenner, A Sinking Island, 1987
The movie is a sardonic look at modern life. a sardonic little jab that made her visitor quiet and subdued for the rest of the night
Recent Examples on the Web A lot of actors could have played him as a sardonic quipster. James Poniewozik, New York Times, 31 Oct. 2023 Kiernan Shipka understands the assignment as Jamie, a sardonic Gen Z teen who time-travels back to the ’80s to stop the masked killer set to slay her parents’ high school social circle. Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2023 That sardonic conclusion flowed from a pair of frustrated attempts to elicit a clear answer about whether the United States government intends to follow through on Biden’s pledge to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese Communist invasion. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, 28 Sep. 2023 The novel, drawing on Fitzgerald’s time working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, includes a sardonic depiction of an assistant producer named Jacques La Borwits, an obsequious yes-man who’s always wrong. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 31 Aug. 2023 Well, maybe there’s some suspense, because Washington likes to preface his character’s violent outbursts with a slow burn, usually followed by a deadpan sardonic aside. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Aug. 2023 Jimmy Buffett Photo: Savannah Jane Buffett There was always a sly grin, a sweetly sardonic message, in just about everything Jimmy Buffett sang or did. Bob Greene, WSJ, 2 Sep. 2023 Full of sardonic humor and genuine shocks, The Cabin in the Woods follows a stereotypical group of friends who spend a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. Amy MacKelden, ELLE, 28 Aug. 2023 From Don’s sardonic wit to his cool but menacing fury, Shah Rukh embodied his persona. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 9 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


re-formation, with the suffix -ic entry 1, of earlier sardonian, from Greek sardónios, alteration (after Sardónios "Sardinian") of earlier sardánios "(of laughter or smiling) bitter, scornful" (of obscure origin) + -an entry 2

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sardonic was in 1638

Dictionary Entries Near sardonic

Cite this Entry

“Sardonic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


sar·​don·​ic sär-ˈdän-ik How to pronounce sardonic (audio)
sardonically adverb

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