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"Irony: The one form of humor that everyone thinks they understand, when actually no one really does. Truly, it is the cleverest joke ever played on mankind."

There are different kinds of irony. In verbal irony, the intended meaning of words is the opposite of the literal meaning of those words. In situational irony, the actual outcome of an action is the opposite of the intended effect (of that action). Basically, you'd think A, but in reality, what really happens is the opposite of A.

See Analysis.Irony for other types of irony, but let's be clear on what irony is not, since that is where the confusion mainly comes from (and it's misused a lot).

  • It is not a lie.
  • It is not a joke.
  • It is not a coincidence.
  • It is not a tragedy.
  • It is not merely anything unexpected.
  • It is not the same as sarcasm.
  • It is not something Alanis Morissette understands.note 

Irony can overlap with those, but just by themselves, they are not irony. This is where the confusion of the meaning of the word usually starts. People try to apply it where it doesn't belong. It's rather common in fiction for one person to correct another who has incorrectly used the term; see Dude, Not Ironic.

It enjoyed a renaissance in the '90s thanks to Postmodernism, which is a slightly different concept of irony.

For tropes that are all about irony, see the Ironic Index.

Example subpages:

References to and spoofs of using "ironic" incorrectly:

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    Comic Books 
  • Berrybrook Middle School: Throughout "Crush", Jorge makes it clear that he doesn't like middle-school gossip/drama all that much, and does everything to avoid it at all costs. Near the end, he ends up the very center of that drama when Garrett accidentally frames him for posting hurtful words in a chat.
  • In The Death of Superman, the Eradicator notes the irony of his new body, made of materials around Superman's tomb, being unable to see brightness as he is a being that absorbs sunlight, yet he cannot see it.
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man: In Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16, which focuses on Mary Jane Watson, she says several guys were interested in her when she rejects going on a date with Peter. She does not want to go out with someone who can't get her own date. While in Amazing Spider-Man #25, Mary Jane meets Betty Brant and Liz Allan, two beautiful girls who were both vying for Peter's affections at the time.
  • In one of the issues of Malibu's Street Fighter, features an ad for Mortal Kombat II (possibly foreshadowing their next comic book series).
  • Captain America: Steve Rogers is a white man with blue eyes and blond hair and the super soldier serum gave him peak human capacity. He uses it to punch Nazis.

    Lets Play 
  • Happens multiple times in Skyblock, but Every 30 Seconds a Random Item Spawns:
    • After Wilbur's fish Milo dies, what's the next item he gets? Another fish.
    • Wilbur spawns a rabbit in the second episode. It doesn't move and Wilbur says he's "being quite safe." Immediately after saying that, the rabbit jumps to its death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Castle:
    • People misusing this trope appears to be something of a minor Berserk Button for Richard (not entirely surprisingly, seeing as he's a novelist).
      Castle: Whoever killed her also murdered the English language.
    • In one episode, they are interviewing a patient of the victim (a shrink) who is commenting on how ironic it is that she is now dead and is not available to help him. Castle points out that this isn't ironic, it would be ironic if her death made him feel better, it is actually just sad.
  • The Golden Girls lampshades this with Sophia's brother Angelo (a Sicilian immigrant) when he was talking about reviving a comedy routine he did with a partner who wasn't there.
    Angelo: He was killed quite ironically in a banana packing plant.
    Blanche: How is that ironical?
    Angelo: I'm sorry, I made a mistake in my English. It was quite comical.
  • Just Shoot Me!:
    • In one episode, there's this dialogue:
      Nina: You know what's ironic? The same day I ran Elliot down, is the same day I ruined his life forever.
      Maya: That's not ironic, that's what happened!
      Nina: So true.
    • And later:
      Elliot: It's ironic, but you running me over that night may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.
      Nina: Elliot, that's not ironic, that's what happened.
  • On the QI episode "Imbroglio", there are two examples:
    • One of the "I"-topics discussed is irony: the different types and the ways the word tends to be misused.
    Stephen Fry: That's irony for you. The things we call irony often really aren't that ironic, ironically... or not.
    • Guest character John Bishop finds it ironic that fellow guest Frank Skinner's song "Three Lions" — about England's one World Cup victory over Germany — became a top 100 hit in Germany.
  • Once on Roseanne when Dan informs his daughter's boyfriend that the joke he made was not irony.
    Dan: That wasn't irony, it was sarcasm. But it was ironic that you didn't know the difference.
  • 30 Rock did this when Liz's handsome boyfriend (an idiot doctor played by Jon Hamm) got to live outside "the bubble" which allows attractive people to think whatever they do is right:
    Drew: I didn't like it outside the bubble. It was very ironic.
    Liz: No, it wasn't — that's not how you use that word.
    Drew: Stop it. I want to use "ironic" however I want. I want to stay in the bubble.
  • In the Lois & Clark episode "Bob and Carol and Lois and Clark", the eponymous four characters discuss the Alanis Morissette song, and whether the fact it doesn't accurately portray irony is itself ironic. This gets a Call-Back at the end of the episode, with the billionaire recluse targeted by the Villain of the Week commenting on the irony on this happening the very day he decided to stop being a recluse.

  • In the song "Word Crimes", "Weird Al" Yankovic makes a point out of stressing that "Irony is not coincidence", and the accompanying video lends an example to this lyric: Irony is a fire truck on fire, rain at a wedding (an allusion to the Alanis Morissette song) is really just the weather.
  • The US Marine Corps stole the tune to "The Marines' Hymn" from the Jacques Offenbach operetta "Genevieve de Brabant", more specifically the Gendarmes' Duet, which is an "I Am" Song for two humorously cowardly and hilariously corrupt rural policemen.

  • Com'c: In #38, "Ironically", Victor thinks it's ironic that "ironic" is one of the most misused words in the language. Ironically, that's not ironic at all, which means he's misusing it himself.
  • In Doc Rat, a patient got burnt. The label said that the heated contents would be hot, but he thought it was ironic.
  • GF Serendipity: Prior to the point when this fic diverges from canon, Stan and Ford's High School Principal thought Ford would become a millionaire and the best Stan could accomplish was being the one to scrape barnacles off a taffy shop by the boardwalk. Nowadays Stan is a millionaire and Ford lives in a ruined cabin and wears rags. The irony is bigger because Stan's fortune started when he helped Fiddleford McGucket sell an invention Ford dismissed as a waste of time.
  • Homestuck:
    • The Striders often claim that many things are 'ironic', when really they are just committedly sarcastic. Their exact definitions vary though (interestingly, since they both claim to be influenced by the other), in that Dave's interpretation seems to involve doing stuff that he doesn't enjoy which makes it ironic because he knows it's not cool, while Dirk's seems to involve doing things which are generally considered uncool but which he actually enjoys. In fact, characters having wildly differing (usually inaccurate) understandings of irony could almost be considered a Running Gag. One example from Andrew Hussie's Author Avatar himself occurs here:
      How ironic, that your very demise would be in the proximity of some horses. What? You didn't follow that? Just think it over. Think it over...
    • And another from uu:
      TT: How is that ironic?
  • Irregular Webcomic!: David Morgan-Mar called for a descriptivist re-evaluation of the word "irony" and an end to nitpicking over it in the annotation for this strip.
  • This strip by The Oatmeal, in addition to listing the 3 most common examples, pokes fun at the arguments over the uses of the word over the internet.
  • Terror Island strip #78 has Sid complaining about things that aren't ironic.

    Web Original 
  • In Dilbert Newsletter #49 Scott Adams discusses how people seem to think that "irony" means "unlikely, and bad."
  • Comedic site The Oatmeal has an interesting take on what the most common source of irony is.
  • This is discussed at length in the second season of Red vs. Blue, when both the Red and Blue Teams are forced by circumstance to team up to defeat a bigger enemy.
    Grif: So now we're forced to work together. How ironic.
    Simmons: No, that's not ironic. Ironic would be if we had to work together to hurt each other.
    Donut: No. Ironic would be instead of that guy kidnapping Lopez, Lopez kidnapped him.
    Sarge: I think it would be ironic if our guns didn't shoot bullets, but instead squirted a healing salve that cured all wounds.
    Caboose: I think it would be ironic if everyone was made of iron.
    *two hours later*
    Church: Okay. We all agree that while the current situation is not totally ironic, the fact that we have to work together is odd in an unexpected way that defies our normal circumstances. Is everyone happy with that?
  • RWBY:
    • Beacon Academy is a metaphorical beacon of hope where the Huntsmen and Huntresses, the defenders of humanity, undergo their training to fight the monstrous Grimm. Beacon is destroyed through the actions of Cinder Fall at the end of Volume 3, and Ruby's Traumatic Superpower Awakening leaves a gigantic Grimm dragon frozen at the top of the broken tower. The dragom is now a literal beacon to Grimm who come from far and wide, in such vast numbers that the Huntsmen and Huntresses will have an extremely difficult time retaking it, and ensuring that a horde of monsters remains at the city's walls.
    • When Jaune Arc first joins Beacon, he puts on a cool Casanova Wannabe act that almost nobody at the Academy takes seriously, and his clumsy flirting is roundly rejected except for one girl who genuinely held feelings for his real persona but he didn't notice until it was too late. In Volume 7, Jaune's first job as a Huntsman is protecting schoolchildren and as such he's a hit with the mothers, but he finds their attention awkward and distracting.
  • On April Fools 2012, Irony was nominated for deletion on Wikipedia "by sheer coincidence", after which Coincidence was nominated for deletion, "ironically"

Not to Be Confused with the opposite of wrinkly.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Verbal Irony, Ironic


Baelz Defeats Mickey

Guns, Gore, and Cannoli features giant rats as enemies in the sewer area, the boss of which is implied to be the first rat that got exposed to the zombie-making poison that kicked off the game's plot. This giant rat, "Mickey", is a tough, agile, and deadly opponent for even a hardened gangster like Vinnie Cannoli. Here, Hakos Baelz of Hololive English, ironically a rat-girl herself, emerges triumphant after a long, grueling fight with the game's toughest boss yet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / RodentsOfUnusualSize

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