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irony definition


This page has 11 definitions of irony in English. Irony is a noun and adjective. Examples of how to use irony in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .


Etymology 1

First attested in 1502. From Middle French ironie, from Old French, from Latin īrōnīa, from Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία (eirōneía, irony, pretext), from εἴρων (eírōn, one who feigns ignorance).



irony (countable and uncountable, plural ironies)

  1. (rhetoric) The quality of a statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean something different from, or the opposite of, what is written literally; the use of words expressing something other than their literal intention, often in a humorous context.[1]
    • [1835, L[arret] Langley, A Manual of the Figures of Rhetoric, [], Doncaster: Printed by C. White, Baxter-Gate, OCLC 1062248511, page 11:
      Irony, saying what it ne'er intends,
      Censures with praise, and speaks to foes as friends.
    1. (countable) An ironic statement.
  2. Dramatic irony: a theatrical effect in which the meaning of a situation, or some incongruity in the plot, is understood by the audience, but not by the characters in the play.
  3. Socratic irony: ignorance feigned for the purpose of confounding or provoking an antagonist.
  4. (informal)[2][3] Contradiction between circumstances and expectations; condition contrary to what might be expected. [from the 1640s]
Usage notes
  • Some authorities omit the last sense, "contradiction of circumstances and expectations, condition contrary to what might be expected";[3] however, it has been in common use since the 1600s.[4]
Derived terms
Related terms
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.
  1. ^ Specktor, Brandon (3 November 2018), “Dictionary Editors Say This Is the Most Misused Word in the English Language”, in Reader's Digest[1], Trusted Media Brands, Inc., retrieved 4 November 2018: “Situational irony occurs when, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, 'a state of affairs or an event… seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.'”
  2. ^ Harris, Bob (2008-06-30), “Isn’t It Ironic? Probably Not”, in The New York Times[2], retrieved 2011-01-06
  3. 3.0 3.1 ironic,, accessed 4 November 2011: The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply "coincidental" or "improbable," in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly. Thus 78 percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of ironically in the sentence In 1969 Susie moved from Ithaca to California where she met her husband-to-be, who, ironically, also came from upstate New York. Some Panelists noted that this particular usage might be acceptable if Susie had in fact moved to California in order to find a husband, in which case the story could be taken as exemplifying the folly of supposing that we can know what fate has in store for us. By contrast, 73 percent accepted the sentence Ironically, even as the government was fulminating against American policy, American jeans and videocassettes were the hottest items in the stalls of the market, where the incongruity can be seen as an example of human inconsistency.
  4. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “irony”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Etymology 2

iron +‎ -y



irony (comparative more irony, superlative most irony)

  1. Of or pertaining to the metal iron.
    The food had an irony taste to it.