The Meaning of Irony: What It Is and How To Use It

What does irony mean, and how is it used in literature or literary works? This article will teach you about the meaning of irony and its usage.

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The word irony is commonly heard in English classes when discussing works of fiction. What does this word mean, and how can this word be used? This article covers the meaning of irony, its etymology, translations, synonyms, and antonyms. Keep reading to learn all about irony!

What Does the Word Irony Mean?

According to Literary Devices, irony is a literary technique that uses contradictions to reveal something that is different from what appears to be reality or the truth. Irony can be thought of as the difference between expectations and reality.

What Are the Types of Irony?

There are multiple different types of irony that are used in literary works or in real life. These all have slightly different outcomes, but all play with the disparity between expectations and reality. Keep reading about the types of irony below to learn more.

Socratic Irony

Vocabulary states that Socratic irony is a technique in which a person says that they don’t know about something in order to trick someone into revealing their own lack of knowledge. This is often described as feigned ignorance to prove ignorance. 

For example, in the movie Legally Blonde, the protagonist Elle Woods stands in a fashion boutique and asks the salesperson if the garment is brand new, pretending not to know. When the salesperson tries to pass it off as a new arrival, Elle tells them exactly how she knows that the garment is from last season, proving their ignorance.

Dramatic Irony 

Dramatic irony is when the viewer or reader of a piece of fiction knows an outcome of events that a character doesn’t know. Often, this means that the audience will know what is going to happen before the character does. 

Examples of dramatic irony are present in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, The Gift of the Magi Oedipus Rex, or the short story The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe. Many different Greek tragedy stories include dramatic irony. These are sometimes called ironies of fate. 

Situational Irony 

Situational irony is a situation in which the opposite of what a person expects happens. One popular example of situational irony is from The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy and her friends already have the traits they were searching for along the Yellow Brick Road. Other examples might be a dentist being told to floss more or a police station getting robbed.

Verbal Irony 

Verbal irony is the use of words to create understatement, overstatement, or paradoxes. This is often used to confound someone. It can also be sarcasm that implies the opposite of its literal meaning. Whenever someone uses sarcasm, this is considered a form of verbal irony. Examples of verbal irony include Jonathan Swift in A Modest Proposal. 

What Is the Origin of Irony?

According to Dictionary, the word irony has been used in the English language since the 16th century. This word originally comes from the French ironie, which has its roots in the Latin īrōnīa. These terms originate from the Greek eirōneía, from the Greek eirein and eirōn meaning dissembler.

What Are Translations of Irony?

Irony is not a concept that is only present in English-language works. There are many different literary works around the world that use irony. By studying this list of translations of irony, you can learn how to discuss the concept of irony in different languages. This could be very useful if you are taking a class on literature from another country or that is taught in another language:

  • Telugu: వ్యంగ్యం
  • Latvian: ironija
  • Vietnamese: trớ trêu
  • Kannada: ವ್ಯಂಗ್ಯದ
  • Arabic: سخرية
  • Romanian: ironie
  • Greek: ειρωνεία
  • Finnish: ironia
  • German: Ironie
  • Chinese (PRC): 讽刺
  • Italian: ironia
  • Norwegian: ironi
  • Catalan: ironia
  • Korean: 반어
  • Portuguese (Portugal): ironia
  • Czech: ironie
  • Turkish: ironi
  • Thai: ประชด
  • Marathi: विडंबन
  • Spanish: ironía
  • Basque: eraldagai
  • Bulgarian: Ирония
  • Russian: ирония
  • Icelandic: kaldhæðni
  • Bengali: অনিচ্ছা
  • Gujarati: વક્રોક્તિ
  • Hindi: विडंबना
  • Urdu: ستم ظریفی
  • Slovenian: ironija
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 諷刺
  • Polish: ironia
  • Japanese: アイロニー
  • Dutch: ironie
  • Ukrainian: іронія
  • Portuguese (Brazil): ironia
  • Hungarian: irónia
  • Croatian: ironija
  • Lithuanian: Ironija
  • Slovak: irónia
  • Indonesian: ironi
  • French: ironie
  • Welsh: eironi
  • Serbian: иронија
  • Amharic: ብረት
  • Danish: ironi
  • Malayalam: വിരോധാഭാസം
  • Estonian: iroonia
  • Hebrew: אִירוֹנִיָה
  • Tamil: முரண்
  • Malay: ironi
  • Swedish: ironi

What Are Synonyms of the Word Irony?

Sometimes describing something as ironic might not have the right connotation in certain circumstances. If you are looking for a word that is similar to the word irony, you can turn to Power Thesaurus for a list of synonyms. Sometimes, looking at a list of synonyms can help if there is a word that is on the tip of your tongue:

  • absurdity
  • acrimony
  • alliteration
  • ambiguity
  • badinage
  • banter
  • burlesque
  • caricature
  • caustic remark
  • causticity
  • causticness
  • chaff
  • comedy
  • contempt
  • cynicism
  • derision
  • drollness
  • farce
  • ferrous
  • figure of speech
  • gibe
  • hilarity
  • humor
  • imagery
  • incongruity
  • incongruousness
  • innuendo
  • insult
  • ironic
  • joke
  • malapropism
  • metaphor
  • mock-heroic
  • mockery
  • mordancy
  • oxymoron
  • paradox
  • parody
  • persiflage
  • play-on
  • quip
  • raillery
  • repartee
  • ridicule
  • sarcasm
  • sardonicism
  • satire
  • satires
  • scoffing
  • scorn
  • simile
  • sneering
  • squib
  • taunt
  • travesty
  • trope
  • wit

What Are Antonyms of the Word Irony?

Irony also has many words with an opposite meaning, which are its antonyms. Power Thesaurus lists words that you can use as antonyms of irony. How many of these antonyms are you already familiar with?

  • acclaim
  • accuracy
  • adulation
  • applause
  • approval
  • approve
  • benign
  • bland
  • bona fides
  • candidness
  • candor
  • certainty
  • commendation
  • compliment
  • conformity
  • correction
  • earnestness
  • frankness
  • genuineness
  • good faith
  • honesty
  • integrity
  • reverence
  • sincerity
  • truth


Irony is a literary device that plays with expectations and reality. This is commonly used in fiction.


  1. Irony Synonyms | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Irony antonyms – 81 Opposites of Irony | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Irony Definition & Meaning | 
  4. Irony Definition, Common Examples, and Significance in Literature | Literary Devices 
  5. Socratic irony – Definition, Meaning & Synonyms |