ironic

adjective
iron·​ic | \ ˌī-ˈrä-nik How to pronounce ironic (audio) also i-ˈrä- \
variants: or less commonly ironical \ ˌī-​ˈrä-​ni-​kəl also  i-​ˈrä-​ How to pronounce ironic (audio) \

Definition of ironic

1 : relating to, containing, or constituting irony an ironic remark an ironic coincidence
2 : given to irony an ironic sense of humor

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from ironic

ironicalness \ ˌī-​ˈrä-​ni-​kəl-​nəs How to pronounce ironic (audio) also  i-​ˈrä-​ \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for ironic

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

What's irony?

Considerable thought is given to what events constitute “true” irony, and the dictionary is often called upon to supply an answer. Here are the facts about how the word irony is used.

Irony has two formal uses that are not as common in general prose as its more casual uses. One refers to Socratic irony—a method of revealing an opponent’s ignorance by pretending to be ignorant yourself and asking probing questions. The other refers to dramatic irony or tragic irony—an incongruity between the situation in a drama and the words used by the characters that only the audience can see. Socratic irony is a tool used in debating; dramatic irony is what happens when the audience realizes that Romeo and Juliet’s plans will go awry.

The third, and debated, use of irony regards what’s called situational irony. Situational irony involves a striking reversal of what is expected or intended: a person sidesteps a pothole to avoid injury and in doing so steps into another pothole and injures themselves. Critics claim the words irony and ironic as they are used in cases lacking a striking reversal, such as “Isn’t it ironic that you called just as I was planning to call you?,” are more properly called coincidence.

The historical record shows that irony and ironic have been used imprecisely for almost 100 years at least, and often to refer to coincidence. This 1939 quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald is typical: "It is an ironic thought that the last picture job I took—against my better judgment—yielded me five thousand dollars five hundred and cost over four thousand in medical attention." Is this true situational irony? It’s debatable.

The word irony has come to be applied to events that are merely curious or coincidental, and while some feel this is an incorrect use of the word, it is merely a new one.

Examples of ironic in a Sentence

She has an ironic sense of humor. It's ironic that computers break down so often, since they're meant to save people time. It is ironic that the robber's car crashed into a police station.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web In an ironic twist, the use of browser privacy plug-ins designed to thwart tracking can actually help make your fingerprint more unique. Ken Colburn, The Arizona Republic, 13 Sep. 2021 The ironic twist about Denali National Park is that only a small number of visitors actually ever get to see the mountain for which the park is named. Washington Post, 3 Sep. 2021 How ironic that the Arconia detectives are obsessed with the truth when it’s not about them. Carrie Wittmer, Vulture, 31 Aug. 2021 In an ironic twist, Blagojevich’s lawsuit was initially assigned to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin — Jim Durkin’s brother. Rick Pearson, chicagotribune.com, 6 Aug. 2021 In an ironic twist, many of Butte's mining jobs have been now replaced by jobs aimed at fixing the environmental damage. CBS News, 1 Aug. 2021 During his time on the ISS, Garriott completed over 30 commercial experiments (both to offset the cost of the trip and to promote business in space), including, in an ironic twist of fate, a study of his eyes for NASA. Alex Moore, Robb Report, 24 July 2021 The death penalty can be ironic: Comer wanted to die. Jen Fifield, The Arizona Republic, 5 Aug. 2021 The title is ironic: the characters refuse to arrange themselves into a simplistic array of heroes and villains. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 19 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ironic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of ironic

1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About ironic

Dictionary Entries Near ironic

iron hydroxide

ironic

ironically

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ironic

Last Updated

22 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ironic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ironic. Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ironic

ironic

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of ironic

: using words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny
: strange or funny because something (such as a situation) is different from what you expected

ironic

adjective
iron·​ic | \ ī-ˈrä-nik How to pronounce ironic (audio) \
variants: also ironical \ -​ni-​kəl \

Kids Definition of ironic

: relating to, containing, or showing irony It was ironic that the robber's car crashed into the police station.

Other Words from ironic

ironically \ -​i-​kə-​lē \ adverb

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!