from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
  • n. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
  • n. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See Synonyms at wit1.
  • n. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: "Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated” ( Richard Kain).
  • n. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity. See Usage Note at ironic.
  • n. Dramatic irony.
  • n. Socratic irony.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Of or pertaining to the metal iron.
  • n. 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, notably as a form of humor.
  • n. 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.
  • n. Ignorance feigned for the purpose of confounding or provoking an antagonist; Socratic irony.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Made or consisting of iron; partaking of iron; iron; ; -- In this sense iron is the more common term.
  • adj. Resembling iron in taste, hardness, or other physical property.
  • n. Dissimulation; ignorance feigned for the purpose of confounding or provoking an antagonist.
  • n. A sort of humor, ridicule, or light sarcasm, which adopts a mode of speech the meaning of which is contrary to the literal sense of the words.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Consisting of or resembling iron; also, resembling any of the distinctive qualities of iron.
  • n. Simulated ignorance in discussion: a method of exposing an antagonist's ignorance by pretending to desire information or instruction from him.
  • n. Hence Covert sarcasm; such a use of agreeable or commendatory forms of expression as to convey a meaning opposite to that literally expressed; sarcastic laudation, compliment, or the like.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a trope that involves incongruity between what is expected and what occurs
  • n. incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs
  • n. witty language used to convey insults or scorn


French ironie, from Old French, from Latin īrōnīa, from Greek eirōneia, feigned ignorance, from eirōn, dissembler, probably from eirein, to say; see wer-5 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1502. From Latin īrōnīa (perhaps via Middle French ironie), from Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία (eirōneia, "irony, pretext"), from εἴρων (eirōn, "one who feigns ignorance"). (Wiktionary)
iron +‎ -y (Wiktionary)



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