sat·​ire ˈsa-ˌtī(-ə)r How to pronounce satire (audio)
: a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
: trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly

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The Culinary Roots of Satire

Satire came into English at the beginning of the 16th century, and the meaning of the word has not strayed very far from its original sense. The initial uses were primarily applied to poems, and the term now has a broader applicability. Satire has a semantic and etymological overlap with both farce and lampoon. Farce ("a light dramatic composition marked by broadly satirical comedy and improbable plot") came into English as a synonym for forcemeat, meaning "finely chopped and highly seasoned meat or fish that is either served alone or used as a stuffing." Lampoon  ("a harsh satire usually directed against an individual") is thought to come from the French lampons!, meaning "let us guzzle!" And satire is believed to trace back to the Latin satur, meaning "well-fed."

Choose the Right Synonym for satire

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 satire in a Sentence

By contrast, Martial's friend, Juvenal, learned to transmute Martial's epigrammatic wit into savage satire. Juvenal's fierce, if occasionally obscene, tirades against immorality fit easily into the propaganda of the new era. G. W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books, 26 Feb. 2009
Unlike late-night talk shows that traffic in Hollywood interviews and stupid pet tricks, "The Daily Show" is a fearless social satire. Not many comedy shows would dare do five minutes on the intricacies of medicare or a relentlessly cheeky piece on President George W. Bush's Thanksgiving trip to Iraq … Marc Peyser, Newsweek, 29 Dec. 2003 - 5 Jan. 2004
Saturday Night Live alum Bill Murray stars in this film about Army basic training, and it features Second City TV veterans John Candy and Harold Ramis. Director Ivan Reitman co-produced Animal House. Do not, however, expect a devastating satire on the military; this film is so innocuous that the Defense Department let Reitman use Fort Knox, Ky. to make it. People, 27 July 1981
His movies are known for their use of satire. The movie is a political satire.
Recent Examples on the Web Of the late musician's many records, Over-Nite Sensation best crystallized his cutting satire of our country’s blank-eyed habits. Daniel Felsenthal, The Atlantic, 27 Nov. 2023 Most of this biting satire takes place at the eponymous estate, where Pamela showed up for a weekend and never left. Peter Debruge, Variety, 24 Nov. 2023 As a satire, American Fiction directly pushes back on that thinking. Tyler Coates, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Nov. 2023 What Safdie and Fielder have created on Curse, at least on the surface level, is a sharp, unstinting satire of White privilege and guilt (Whitney is constantly having to distance herself from her parents, who are widely regarded as slumlords). Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 10 Nov. 2023 And the subversions are too gentle, so that Eng’s portrait of Somerset Maugham and his colonial world has neither the rotten pungency of satire nor quite the vitality of a truly fresh realism. James Wood, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023 Written and directed by Mike White, The White Lotus has garnered critical acclaim for its scathing social satire. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 3 Nov. 2023 This year Messina also starred opposite Kaley Cuoco in the Peacock true crime satire Based on a True Story, which premiered in June and was recently renewed for a second season. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Nov. 2023 Yu will also examine how Mad became a staple of American satire for generations and encouraged readers to question authority. Addie Morfoot, Variety, 15 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin satura, satira, perhaps from (lanx) satura dish of mixed ingredients, from feminine of satur well-fed; akin to Latin satis enough — more at sad

First Known Use

1501, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of satire was in 1501

Dictionary Entries Near satire

Cite this Entry

“Satire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


sat·​ire ˈsa-ˌtī(ə)r How to pronounce satire (audio)
: something meant to make fun of and show the weaknesses of human nature or a particular person
or satirical

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