Irony Definition. Etymology (Lecture #1)

As promised, I am coming back with my first post in the “Irony and Sarcasm Lecture” series. Although it may be a bit chaotic and confusing, I promise that in time, everything will clear up. However, I still hope you will like it (You see, I have no life, so this blog is really important to me). 

We often hear about irony and sarcasm. Still, to most of us, these terms are completely and utterly foreign. And I will include myself here, because, no matter how much I like to bitch out on this blog, I am not that much of an ironic person in real life.

So, I find it really important to start my “Lecture on Irony and Sarcasm” with a proper, simple definition of irony. But first, I’ll have to clarify some terms, without which I would be completely lost.

  • Literal meaning: the day-to-day meaning of the words, the one we use in normal conversation and the one that does not hide anything behind it. Example: I haven’t had anything to eat today. I am hungry. 
  • Figurative meaning: the meaning that relates to the literal meaning in order to make the message stronger. Example: She was hungry to read as many books as possible . (As you can notice, nobody in the world actually feeds on reading in the literal sense of the word. However, people can be so eager to read as much as possible, so that it becomes close to a necessity, such as feeding.)

Now, let’s get back to our beloved irony and its definition. According to, Irony is:

the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.


“How beautiful you look in this dress, darling!” (said when the dress actually looks horrible on that poor lady). Here‘s an image to see what I am talking about.

Or, better yet:

“Yes, sure, I have read your blog, it is a wonderful masterpiece of the modern writing. Yes, sure, those reviews are amazing and you seem to know so much about technology! (said when someone is talking to be about this blog, but they have never actually read anything on it).

This definition covers only one type of irony though. There is much more to it than this, but I wanted to start out with small steps and gradually gather information to share with you. Next “lecture”, we will learn about the types of irony out there and how they are used.

Just to give you an idea of how far back in time irony goes, check the word’s etymology. In this new light of things, irony is a lot more than simply mocking someone or something, although this is the sense most of us use today. But then again, this is part of a different lecture and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Until then, let’s see if someone is actually reading this. Comment with one example of irony that comes through your mind. You can use the examples above as a template if you want to, or if you think you have better suggestions, please go ahead and write them down.