What Is Irony? Guide To Irony - Types And Examples

What is Irony?

It’s raining cats and dogs outside. You and your friend still have a long walk home, and you’re already soaked. You can see lightning in the distance and hear loud booms of thunder.

But your friend turns to you and says, “Isn’t it such a nice day out?”

That’s irony, and it's a figure of speech.

There are many different types of irony, but in general, it’s all about expectations. You expect one thing, but then something else happens.

In the example above, you would expect your friend to be upset about the weather since you’re both caught in the middle of a storm. But your friend likes it! (Or at least the words mean that, even if your friend is being sarcastic and doesn’t really mean them.)

Examples of Irony are everywhere: in conversations, books, movies, and even memes on the internet!

Irony Examples

Where Does Irony Come From?

Every country and language has forms of irony or at least examples of it. The actual meaning of a phrase is spun around and given a whole new definition of irony to feign ignorance, be sarcastic, or even dramatize a statement's ironic nature.

The term irony has many historical irony roots. Socratic irony, in particular, stems from the Greek comic character Eiron. This character uses his wit to triumph over the outlandish character Alazon. It is the inspiration for the Platonic dialogues, a series of ironic stories in literature developed by the Greek philosopher Plato in the 4th Century BC.

The three most common types of irony are verbal, dramatic, and situational.

Dramatic irony, in particular, depends on the structure of the work rather than words and is used in both theatre and poetical irony to draw the audience in. In contrast, situational irony is more about the outcome of a situation, where the result is different from what was expected. Some major types of situational irony in literature are in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo kills himself after learning of his lover's death despite her being alive. There are also many examples of situational irony in everyday life, which inspired the 1996 hit song by Alanis Morissette, Ironic.

Regardless of whether you've encountered it before, forms of irony are a great figure of speech to use in your writing.

Different Types of Irony

There are many kinds of irony; some types of irony are used to dramatize, but most of the time, the definition of irony is to spin the literal meaning to make the statement humorous and give effect.

Verbal Irony With Examples

Verbal irony is when someone says something different than what they mean. Most people are familiar with sarcasm, but verbal irony also appears in other types of figure of speech. Here are the four most important types of verbal irony:

Overstating & Hyperboles - "I haven't seen you in a million years!"

  • You arrived 10 minutes late to the movies and missed the first scene. You turn to your friend and say, “This is the worst day of my life!”

This is an example of overstatement or hyperbole. In this form of verbal irony, your statement is more dramatic than the situation requires. Its literal meaning is much more dramatic than the situation needs, which emphasizes the point.

Understating Meaning - "It's only a small scratch!"

An understatement is the opposite of an overstatement. Rather than being “over the top,” you purposefully make the situation seem less important than it is

For example:

  • A bully has been tormenting you all year. But when a teacher asks you about it, you say, “We’re not the best of friends.”

Instead of “overreacting” as you would with overstatement, you’re downplaying the bullying with an understatement.

Sarcastic Irony With Examples

Sarcasm and irony are often used synonymously, but they’re not actually the same thing. While sarcastic people say something different than what they actually mean (verbal irony), they also intend to make fun of or mock someone else.

For example:

  • You’ve been looking everywhere for your glasses. And after ten minutes of searching, you find that they’ve been on top of your head the whole time. Your friend says, “Great find, Sherlock.”

There’s cruelty or maliciousness to sarcasm that isn’t necessarily a part of other forms of verbal irony.

Socratic Irony With Examples

Socratic irony has to do with manipulation. In this form of irony, you pretend not to know something in order to get the other person to admit they are wrong.

For instance, you may get someone else to confess a secret or admit they were lying. But you do it by asking questions you already know the answers to.

It’s a trap!

For example:

  • In a courtroom, a hot-shot lawyer is questioning a witness. The witness owns a convenience store where a robbery took place. Through a series of seemingly innocent questions about the store, the lawyer gets the owner to confess that he actually stole his own products.

Examples Of Verbal Irony And Sarcasm

Flip the flashcard for more examples.

Situational Irony With Examples

Situational irony also has to do with expectations, but you don’t need words. Instead, situational irony is when you expect one thing to occur, but something else happens.

It doesn’t have to be funny, mocking, or malicious. It just has to be different from your expectations.

For example:

  • You have a stomachache, so you go to the doctor’s office. But the doctor isn’t there because she is at home in bed with the flu.
  • You cut your finger while trying to open a box of adhesive bandages.
  • You go on a hike but get lost and run out of food and water. After wandering for many hours trying to find your way home, you end up sleeping in the woods. But when you wake up, you look around and see your house right in front of you.
  • You are an award-winning engineer, and you develop the most advanced, strongest material for building roads. Everyone is very excited because there won’t be any more potholes. But the first person to ride down the street on a bicycle accidentally cracks the pavement.

Checkpoint ✔️
Drag the meaning to the corresponding type of irony.

Feigning ignorance to expose other people's ignorance.

Exaggerating statements to make them bigger and more dramatic.

Using irony to mock or show contempt humorously.

Presenting something as less important than it is.

The cause and effect of a situation that wasn't expected.

Socratic

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Understatement

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Situational

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Dramatic Irony With Examples

Dramatic irony is a type of irony found in works such as books, plays, or movies. In this type of irony, the audience knows more than the characters within the work. Therefore, you know what will happen before the characters do, which creates tension.

If you like horror movies, you’re probably used to dramatic irony. Often, directors use dramatic irony to increase suspense.

For example:

  • You might know there’s a murderer in the closet, but the character unknowingly opens the door anyway.

Other times, dramatic irony might feel tense at the moment but be very sweet in the end. This could be the plot of a romantic comedy, for instance:

  • There’s a couple, Anna and Kate, who have been going out for a while. One evening, they’re both invited to a masquerade party, and they arrive separately. They don’t recognize each other at all. Thinking that Kate is a stranger, Anna tells her that she wants to propose to her girlfriend but doesn’t know if her girlfriend will accept. Through this conversation, Anna convinces herself that Kate will never marry her, even though, in reality, Kate wants to. But despite this setback, by the end of the movie, Kate and Anna confess their feelings and get married.

One benefit of adding dramatic irony to your writing is to get your readers more involved in the plot. They’ll think, “I want to tell the character what’s happening!” – just as you would if you knew there was a cliff that a movie character couldn’t see but was about to drive off.

Conclusion

Irony comes in many forms, and you can find it in both casual conversations, great works of literature, and poetic irony – plus everywhere in between!

As you read books, watch movies, see plays, or simply talk to your friends, try to identify verbal, situational, and dramatic irony. Irony is a fantastic way to enrich language and storytelling.

Also, check out the other pages on this site! There’s lots of great information about other literary terms and grammar topics.

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