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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.

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 
  • In the comic adaptation BoBoiBoy Movie 2 - Evolusi Kuasa, an amnesiac Adu Du spends most of the story preparing to rescue Ayu Yu, who he believes to be his wife. She rebuffs his affections with a strike to the head that restores his memories. Once she tries to avoid arrest by claiming herself to be Adu Du's wife, he has no recollection of or feelings for her.
  • 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.

    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). 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, just tragic: It would be ironic if her death made him feel better.
    • In Hell Hath No Fury, Castle comments that it's always the "family-oriented" politicians who get caught in scandals because "the universe loves irony, and because most people are hypocrites".
    • In Inventing The Girl, Beckett gives the murderer, who had killed his wife out of a mistaken belief she was cheating on him, a recording of his wife crying and only wanting to return to her husband in her last moments. He did not take it well.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: This is discussed at length in the second season when both the Red and Blue Teams are forced by circumstance to team up to defeat a bigger enemy. Every character brings a different definition of irony, resulting in a two hour argument before they agree that the situation isn't ironic at all.
    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 prestigious Hunter of Monsters Wizarding School where many of the world's best and brightest go to learn to become Huntsmen and Huntresses. At the end of Volume 3, the school is destroyed and through Ruby's Traumatic Superpower Awakening, a giant draconic Grimm is frozen perched atop the tower of Beacon, turning the school in a beacon for hordes of monsters camped right outside the city limits.
    • When Jaune first attended Beacon, he put on the personality of a smooth Casanova Wannabe that everybody saw through immediately. His attempts at flirting with girls were dismissed as annoying and embarrassing, all except for his partner Pyrrha who was genuinely attracted to his humble Nice Guy nature... and he never realized until it was too late to return her feelings. Fast forward to Volume 7 where he takes up his first job as a professional Huntsman by protecting children on their way to school, and all the young mothers find him attractive and try to flirt with him, but he just finds all the female attention awkward and embarrassing. And in Volume 9, his old crush Weiss (who originally thought very little of him) is left practically purring at a more mature post-Time Skip version of him, but he's too traumatized by years of isolation to care a jot about romance.
    • Watts has spent Volume 7 carefully manipulating technology to ensure he and Tyrian can't be captured on any security footage and refusing to allow Tyrian to have a single base of operations because it increases the chances of them getting caught. He is eventually captured on camera by going to the one place he never expected to be filmed. When he visits Schnee Manor to pull Jacques into his plotting, their entire discussion is captured on hidden cameras that Jacques' abused wife Willow has secretly placed in every room of the house to collect evidence of his illicit activities.

  • 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 three 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 

Not to Be Confused with the opposite of wrinkly.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Verbal Irony, Ironic


The Death of Shary Bobbins

Shortly after Shary Bobbins leaves the Simpsons' at the end of the episode, Bobbins is sucked into the turbine of an airplane and shredded to pieces as she's floating away. Worst part is, the Simpsons have turned away and Homer is assuring Lisa that they will see her again some time in the future.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / BusCrash

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