/uy"reuh nee, uy"euhr-/, n., pl. ironies.1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, "How nice!" when I said I had to work all weekend.2. Literature.a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.3. See Socratic irony.4. See dramatic irony.5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.6. the incongruity of this.7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc.[1495-1505; < L ironia < Gk eironeía dissimulation, sarcasm, understatement, equiv. to eíron a dissembler + -eia -Y3]Syn. 1, 2. IRONY, SARCASM, SATIRE indicate mockery of something or someone. The essential feature of IRONY is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs. In the figure of speech, emphasis is placed on the opposition between the literal and intended meaning of a statement; one thing is said and its opposite implied, as in the comment, "Beautiful weather, isn't it?" made when it is raining or nasty.Ironic literature exploits, in addition to the rhetorical figure, such devices as character development, situation, and plot to stress the paradoxical nature of reality or the contrast between an ideal and actual condition, set of circumstances, etc., frequently in such a way as to stress the absurdity present in the contradiction between substance and form.IRONY differs from SARCASM in greater subtlety and wit. In SARCASM ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes. It may be used in an indirect manner, and have the form of irony, as in "What a fine musician you turned out to be!" or it may be used in the form of a direct statement, "You couldn't play one piece correctly if you had two assistants." The distinctive quality of SARCASM is present in the spoken word and manifested chiefly by vocal inflection, whereas SATIRE and IRONY, arising originally as literary and rhetorical forms, are exhibited in the organization or structuring of either language or literary material.SATIRE usually implies the use of irony or sarcasm for censorious or critical purposes and is often directed at public figures or institutions, conventional behavior, political situations, etc.irony2/uy"euhr nee/, adj.consisting of, containing, or resembling iron.[1350-1400; ME; see IRON, -Y1]
* * *Language device in which the real intent is concealed or contradicted by the literal meaning of words or a situation.Verbal irony, either spoken or written, arises from an awareness of contrast between what is and what ought to be. Dramatic irony, an incongruity in a theatrical work between what is expected and what occurs, depends on the structure of a play rather than its use of words, and it is often created by the audience's awareness of a fate in store for the characters that they themselves do not suspect. See also figure of speech.
* * *▪ linguistic and literary devicelanguage device, either in spoken or written form in which the real meaning is concealed or contradicted by the literal meanings of the words (verbal irony) or in a situation in which there is an incongruity between what is expected and what occurs ( dramatic irony).Verbal irony arises from a sophisticated or resigned awareness of contrast between what is and what ought to be and expresses a controlled pathos without sentimentality. It is a form of indirection that avoids overt praise or censure, as in the casual irony of the statement “That was a smart thing to do!” (meaning “very foolish”).Dramatic irony depends on the structure of a work rather than its use of words. In plays it is often created by the audience's awareness of a fate in store for the characters that they themselves are unaware of, as when Agamemnon accepts the flattering invitation to walk upon the purple carpet that is to become his shroud. The surprise ending of an O. Henry short story is also an example of dramatic irony, as is the more subtly achieved effect of Anton Chekhov's story “Lady with the Dog,” in which an accomplished Don Juan engages in a routine flirtation only to find himself seduced into a passionate lifelong commitment to a woman who is no different from all the others.In the 20th century irony was often used to emphasize the multilayered, contradictory nature of modern (and postmodern) experience. For instance, in Toni Morrison's Sula (1973) the black community lives in a neighbourhood called the Bottom, located in the hills above a largely white town. American ethnic writers in particular employed irony in works ranging from memoirs (e.g., Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior ) to novels (e.g., Gerald Vizenor's The Heirs of Columbus ) to disrupt racial stereotypes.The term irony has its roots in the Greek comic character Eiron, a clever underdog who by his wit repeatedly triumphs over the boastful character Alazon. The Socratic irony of the Platonic (Plato) dialogues derives from this comic origin. Feigning ignorance and humility, Socrates goes about asking silly and obvious questions of all sorts of people on all sorts of subjects, only to expose their ignorance as more profound than his own. The nonliterary use of irony is usually considered sarcasm.
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