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

Example Sentences

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 All became the grist for her dark satire, laced with wry, aphoristic asides on the human condition. Alan Cowell, New York Times, 4 Jan. 2023 This is an opinion column, and dribbles into satire. John Archibald |, al, 16 Dec. 2022 The sequel is set during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provides another rich vein for satire. Katie Rife, Chron, 22 Nov. 2022 Was Dario Fo awarded in 1997 for his political satire or because the Academy mixed him up with a different, better writer? Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 3 Oct. 2022 Initially, Reboot appears to be leaning into the showbiz satire of it all. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Sep. 2022 On Tuesday, Neon released the first trailer for the satire — starring Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, and Harrelson — which won the Cannes Film Festival's highest honor, the Palme d'Or, this year. Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 9 Aug. 2022 His callow-millennial act — and the navel-gazing vagaries of modern content culture — make fertile ground for satire, and many of the jokes here do find their soft targets. Leah Greenblatt,, 29 July 2022 Clueless lets its flawed heroine be flawed and captures Austen’s gift for social satire by poking fun at her own characters and their world. Carrie Wittmer, Vulture, 18 July 2022 See More

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

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 Feb. 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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