Irony Examples: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what irony is? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on irony, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What is irony?

According to Your Dictionary, there are three different main types of irony. First there is dramatic irony, which is used in literature and film  when the audience knows more about what’s going on than the characters. It can create suspense as the audience waits to see if the characters will realize what’s happening before it’s too late. This technique is often used in stories with an omniscient narrator. Next, there is situational irony, in which something happens that is completely different from what was expected, creating surprise or shock. Verbal irony occurs when a character says one thing, but means another. Additionally, Socratic irony named for Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is when someone pretends to  be ignorant on a topic and asks questions to someone as a way to get them to expose their own ignorance or flaws in reasoning, which is often used in satire. Cosmic irony is associated with fate or change. Irony is seen in many different books and movies, like the short story The Gift of the Magi, tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar with Brutus, and Othello by William Shakespeare in characters like Desdemona and Iago, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, “Isn’t it Ironic?” by Alanis Morissette, and more.

The Gift of the Magi is one of the most famous examples of irony. In this story, a wife cuts her long hair and sells it to buy her husband a watch chain. The husband sells his watch to buy his wife a hair accessory of combs. They are both left with a useless gift, which was not what they expected. Examples of dramatic irony, tragic irony, a form of verbal irony, plot twists, an unexpected twist, romantic irony, and more can be used to create comedy and humor, coincidences, sarcasm, and more. Common examples of situational irony can be found in any genre of work, from Greek tragedy to song lyrics.

Many different languages also contain words that mean irony. You may notice that some of these translations of irony look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that likely have the same root or language of origin, causing them to sound the same. The below list of translations of irony is provided by Word Sense. 

  •  Portuguese: ironia‎ (fem.)
  •  Japanese: 反語‎ (はんご, hango), 諷刺‎ (ふうし, fūshi) (satire, sarcasm), アイロニー‎ (aironī)
  •  Italian: ironia‎ (fem.), paradosso‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: ironia‎ (fem.)
  •  Cyrillic: иронија‎ (fem.)
  •  Tagalog: libak‎, parikala‎
  •  Arabic: سَخْرِيَّة‎ (fem.), مُفَارَقَة‎ (fem.) (paradox), تَهَكُّم‎ (masc.) (satire, sarcasm), تَعَارُض‎ (masc.) (discrepancy), تَنَافُر‎ (masc.) (incongruity)
  •  Turkish: tezat‎, ironi‎
  •  Romanian: ironie‎ (fem.)
  •  Nynorsk: ironi‎ (masc.)
  •  Spanish: ironía‎ (fem.)
  •  Polish: ironia‎ (fem.)
  •  Greek: ειρωνεία‎ (fem.)
  •  Esperanto: ironio‎
  •  Catalan: ironia‎ (fem.)
  •  Slovene: ironija‎ (fem.)
  •  Bokmål: ironi‎ (masc.)
  •  Interlingua: ironia‎
  •  Danish: ironi‎ (common)
  •  Irish: íoróin‎ (fem.)
  •  Dutch: ironie‎ (fem.)
  •  Hungarian: irónia‎
  •  Roman: ironija‎ (fem.)
  •  Hebrew: אירוניה‎
  •  French: ironie‎ (fem.)
  •  Mandarin: 反語‎, 反语‎ (fǎnyǔ), 反話‎, 反话‎ (fǎnhuà), 諷刺‎, 讽刺‎ (fěngcì) (satire, sarcasm)
  •  German: Ironie‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: ironi‎ (common)
  •  Czech: ironie‎ (fem.)
  •  Korean: 반어‎
  •  Russian: иро́ния‎ (fem.)

What are examples of irony?

The common types of irony can be used in many different contexts in the English language. Trying to use a word or literary technique in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize what it is, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this term of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of examples of irony from Your Dictionary that can help get you started incorporating this tool into your everyday use. 

  •  A marriage counselor files for divorce.
  •  A post on Facebook complains about how useless Facebook is.
  •  A member of PETA wears leather shoes.
  •  A mother complains about her lazy children, not realizing they have been secretly making her a birthday present.
  •  The cobbler’s children have no shoes.
  •  The president is injured when a Secret Service agent knocks him down while protecting him.
  •  An anti-technology group sets up a website to recruit new club members.
  •  A student passes a class with a well-written essay about how bad the class is.
  •  An English teacher has poor grammar.
  •  A defensive football team hits the running back so hard that he falls into the endzone and scores a touchdown.
  •  A man leaps out of the road to avoid being hit by a car, only to have a tree branch fall on his head.
  •  A famous singer sings her own song at a karaoke bar but is booed.
  •  A pilot has a fear of heights.
  •  The police station gets robbed.
  •  A man who needs medical assistance is run over by the ambulance sent to help him.
  •  A fire station burns down.
  •  A child runs away from someone throwing a water balloon at him and falls into the pool.
  •  A traffic cop gets his license suspended because of unpaid parking tickets.
  •  A heartfelt movie about valuing love over commercialism has lots of product placement.
  •  A Wall Street investor makes fun of others who are afraid of a risky stock pick but later loses all his money.

What are other literary techniques and devices?

There are many different literary and grammatical techniques and devices that you might see when you are reading prose or poetry. It is important to recognize these devices because they are always used for some purpose. Knowing these devices can help readers understand the author’s deeper meaning and why they are using such a device. Take a look at the below list of literary devices from Reedsy and see how many you know! Then try researching ones that are unfamiliar to you. 

  •  Anthropomorphism
  •  Cumulative sentence
  •  Polysyndeton
  •  Foreshadowing
  •  Malapropism
  •  Simile
  •  Chiasmus
  •  Aphorism
  •  Satire
  •  Juxtaposition
  •  Tautology
  •  Anachronism
  •  Motif
  •  Flashback
  •  Dramatic irony
  •  Oxymoron
  •  Metaphor
  •  Isocolon
  •  Personification
  •  Paradox
  •  Colloquialism
  •  Frame story
  •  Metonymy
  •  Anastrophe
  •  Litotes
  •  Imagery
  •  Tragicomedy
  •  Soliloquy
  •  Allegory
  •  Tmesis
  •  Exposition
  •  Repetition
  •  Hypophora
  •  Tone
  •  Anaphora
  •  Irony
  •  Archetype
  •  Onomatopoeia
  •  Symbolism
  •  Synecdoche
  •  Zoomorphism
  •  In Medias Res
  •  Point of view
  •  Euphemism
  •  Allusion

Overall, irony is when the opposite of what is expected to happen, happens.


  1. Literary Devices | Reedsy
  2. Examples of Situational Irony | Your Dictionary  
  3. irony: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. ​​Examples of Irony: Major Types and Meanings | Your Dictionary