Main definitions of irony in English

: irony1irony2



  • 1The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

    ‘“Don't go overboard with the gratitude,” he rejoined with heavy irony’
    • ‘Expressing yourself through irony is the way to go these days.’
    • ‘The filmmakers used the city's motto ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ as the film's title with deliberate irony.’
    • ‘But did he know he would use irony to such clever effect even a moment before he began doing so?’
    • ‘I enjoyed your piece, Tom, I like contradictions, irony, humour and absurdities.’
    • ‘By this point in the movie, Banek can only laugh with caustic irony at this diatribe.’
    • ‘But the jokes, slang and heavy irony that make up the established banter of the building trade could be heading for extinction.’
    • ‘They do it very quickly, using irony, saying the opposite of what they mean, and using extreme language.’
    • ‘The second, appended to the first half with humorous irony, was apparently intended to mean what it sounded like.’
    • ‘It involved the use of that very English form of expression known as irony.’
    • ‘With deliberate irony, they also echo corporate efforts at conveying information efficiently.’
    • ‘Those who don't know him better could be forgiven for missing the irony in that expression.’
    • ‘However, it soon dawned on me that these people were actually real activists, and their chants were not a form of deliberate irony.’
    • ‘The final dialogue, Imperceptible, is a darkly humorous piece of irony.’
    • ‘His behaviour is a perfect expression of courtesy and good feeling with a spice of irony in it.’
    • ‘Irony, and metaphor as a form of irony, is a way to understand how the English language is used.’
    • ‘A tale of two cities, heavy with irony and laden with symbolism, was played out over the summer.’
    • ‘You can not express irony or metaphor effectively in ticker-tape speech.’
    • ‘The results are irony and sarcasm, and those are two things I try to avoid.’
    • ‘I suppose that there are people who could fail to notice when I'm deploying irony, exaggerating for humorous effect or just burbling.’
    • ‘Heavy irony underlines her declaration that she had always wanted to be in the movies and longed to be discovered, like Marilyn Monroe.’
    sarcasm, sardonicism, dryness, causticity, sharpness, acerbity, acid, bitterness, trenchancy, mordancy, cynicism
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    1. 1.1A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.
      [with clause] ‘the irony is that I thought he could help me’
      • ‘There's plenty of irony in seeing one monopoly accuse another monopoly of restricting users' choices.’
      • ‘He was the great appreciator of the country's breadth and energy, its strengths, ironies and contradictions.’
      • ‘The irony was that Airdrie emerged from the match with one of their best results after one of their poorest performances.’
      • ‘There are dilemmas, ironies and paradoxes within this context.’
      • ‘In a strange twist of irony, this very narrowing down of themes may result in a wider audience.’
      • ‘The irony of that situation was that Stalin judged Hitler to be more rational than in fact he was.’
      • ‘It's at this point I begin to wonder whether Wayne's post is actually satirical, replete with deliberate ironies I completely missed.’
      • ‘It would be the perfect irony if today's opponents provided the spark that Scotland need to beat them in their own magnificent Millennium Stadium.’
      • ‘Havana is all of these simultaneously, a place of contradictions and ironies, never settling down to visitor's expectations.’
      • ‘The irony of the growing shortage is that in responding to it, China could soon find itself with too much capacity.’
      • ‘For the rest of us, it is a morality tale - a complicated one filled with ironies and contradictions, but a morality tale nonetheless.’
      • ‘It would be the final irony of this extraordinary affair if the fight were to be cancelled on the grounds that it could be a threat to public order.’
      • ‘In perfect irony, one of them was seen pasting posters on the pedestal of the Kamaraj statue to publicise an agitation in the city on Tuesday.’
      • ‘The irony is almost too perfect: Malls are now being designed to resemble the downtown commercial districts they replaced.’
      • ‘In a case of savage irony, Yost ended up supervising the termination of many of the engineers he helped to hire.’
      • ‘The irony is that the farming methods causing the drainage will result in their own demise, as they use up the topsoil and render the ground infertile.’
      • ‘The paradoxes and ironies of this situation are endless.’
      • ‘To add irony to injury, his reselection was itself a result of an injury to the captain Jason Robinson.’
      • ‘The greatest irony of this case was that his wife was also a patient, presenting with insomnia due to shift work as a nurse.’
      • ‘But perhaps the most bitter and disturbing irony is that the best surf tends to arrive during the winter.’
      paradox, paradoxical nature, incongruity, incongruousness, peculiarity
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    2. 1.2A literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character's words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.
      • ‘I was teaching a basic college writing course one summer at the local community college and I wanted to explain irony as a literary device.’
      • ‘There is also an example of dramatic irony when Huck tells of the drunk horseman at the circus.’
      • ‘A Doll's House also contains many examples of dramatic irony.’
      • ‘Oedipus Rex is notable for its use of dramatic irony: everybody in the audience knows from the start that Oedipus himself is the guilty party he seeks out for punishment.’
      • ‘And the handkerchief becomes transformed again, by tragic irony, into a visual argument for Desdemona's adultery.’
      • ‘The novel's tragic irony serves to pique the conscience of the reader, as well as to spotlight Steinbeck's political concerns for the equality and happiness of all members of the human family’
      • ‘They considered dramatic monologue, dramatic irony, persona as mask, and so on.’
      • ‘Schlegel's Romantic irony was a reaction to the systematic thought of Kant.’
      • ‘A palpable sense of irony, derived from Greek tragedy, embeds itself in the noirish landscape.’
      • ‘Psychological realism is therefore heightened at the expense of tragic irony.’
      • ‘The tragic irony here for an artist like Schoenberg was that the only way to realize art's concept, autonomy, meant that he had to indirectly affirm the system he was fleeing.’


Early 16th century (also denoting Socratic irony): via Latin from Greek eirōneia simulated ignorance from eirōn dissembler.

Main definitions of irony in English

: irony1irony2



  • Of or like iron.

    ‘an irony gray color’