Verbal Irony is Best Defined as

The word “irony” confuses many people and, in particular, what is meant by “exact irony.” We oftentimes say we’re “being ironic” without really knowing what this means. You probably learned almost verbal irony at school, along with a range of other literary devices that are often (and incorrectly) used interchangeably.

We’ll clear up your defoliation with an accurate definition of irony and, specifically, verbal irony, and provide a broad range of irony examples to assistance you understand and use it correctly yourself.

What is Irony?

Irony is when there’s a contrast between expectation and reality. It’s a unremarkably used literary device. Although irony is oft used for comedy, it works effectively across all genres.

The word “irony” comes from an aboriginal Greek comic character chosen Eiron. He was a clever underdog who used his wit to bring down his opponent, the braggart Alazon, by underplaying his abilities. In aboriginal Greek theater, the eirôn became a stock grapheme in one-act.

The original significant of irony equally a literary device meant “dissimulation” and “purposely affected.” Characters said less than they meant in a subtle underplaying of the truth. The meaning has changed over time and now irony means the reverse of what is expected.

The Greek and Latin origins of irony

The Three Types of Irony: Verbal, Situational, and Dramatic

You lot may have heard in that location are three types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic. In fact, at that place are enough of other types we’ll mention afterwards, but these are mostly regarded every bit the primary three.

  • Verbal Irony: a contradiction between what is said and what is meant.
  • Situational Irony: the results of an activity are the opposite of what was intended or expected.
  • Dramatic Irony: When the audition knows something a character does non.

Let’s look briefly at the pregnant of dramatic and situational irony to consider how they differ from verbal irony.

Situational Irony

Situational irony describes a consummate deviation betwixt what is expected to happen and an actual consequence. The contrast between the expected results and reality is abrupt and a contradiction, such every bit in the traditional story The Hare and the Tortoise.

We find another famous case in the hugely popular Harry Potter serial. Information technology leads the reader to believe that Harry will eventually kill Lord Voldemort. It comes as a surprise to discover that Harry must in fact allow Lord Voldemort to impale him in order for him to exist defeated.

Dramatic Irony

You’ll see plenty of dramatic irony in plays, Tv shows, movies, and novels. It occurs when you know something that the histrion or graphic symbol does non. This means their words accept a detail significance they cannot possibly comprehend.

For example, let’s take a TV show set up in a hospital. Nosotros run across a physician looking worryingly at medical notes. We can encounter the examination shows a terminal diagnosis. Now it cuts to the patient surrounded by family members. “I’ll be out of here in no fourth dimension!” she declares. As the observer, nosotros know things are far from okay for the poor patient. Dramatic irony is created considering her words unwittingly are saying the contrary of what we know is going to happen.

Dramatic irony puts us one step ahead of the character, giving us an omniscient view of events. We know something they don’t. We can use this type of irony for huge laughs or the most tragic of stories (frequently known as “tragic irony”). Think of how Shakespeare uses dramatic irony both for the tragic death of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and for hilarity when Titania falls in beloved with Nick Lesser in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Further Types of Irony

Although we oftentimes refer to the three types of irony, in that location are plenty of other types.

Common Types of Irony

  • Classical Irony: the original meaning of irony as shown in aboriginal Greek comedy.
  • Romantic Irony: an author breaks the fictional illusion and shows their role in the composition of a text.
  • Cosmic Irony: the contrast between the absolute of the world and the individual.
  • Meta Irony: beingness ironic nigh existence ironic.
  • Comic irony: when irony is used to comedic effect, such as in satire.

What is Verbal Irony?

Verbal irony is plant in plays, speeches, and literature when someone says something that is sharply different from the reality of the situation. Verbal irony, different dramatic and situational irony, is used intentionally past the speaker.

It can exist hard sometimes to tell if a statement is verbal irony or non.

For example:

  • A women falls down the stairs and cries, “I’thousand not injure!” and tries her best to hide her mishap.
    This is not exact irony.
  • A woman falls down the stairs and cries, “I’m non hurt!” to communicate that she is indeed injured.
    This is verbal irony.

If you are unsure if something is verbal irony or not, look at the intent of the speaker. If they are deliberately saying the reverse of what they recall or feel to highlight information technology, information technology’southward exact irony, like this example in the popular film
Mean Girls.

How to tell if it is irony

Exact Irony Examples

Think that verbal irony is used deliberately, oftentimes for one-act upshot. We utilize it all the time, oft without even realizing.

Real-life examples:

  • Maxim, “What a lovely day!” in the middle of a hurricane.
  • Seeing your washing auto has broken and saying, “That’south just fantastic!”
  • Later a bad date, telling your friends, “My favorite part was when she spilled her wine all over my lap.”
  • Yous ask for a quick pause and your boss shouts, “Certain! Information technology’southward not like we’re decorated or anything!”

Any time you say the opposite of the truth intentionally for effect, that’s verbal irony.

What are Ironic Similes?

Ironic similes are a type of verbal irony. In a typical simile, we make a comparison using the words “similar” or “as” to highlight a particular element. For example, you might say that a basketball player is “equally tall equally a mountain.”

Ironic similes compare something using the complete opposite to highlight an incongruity.

Examples of Ironic Similes

Ironic similes are an example of verbal irony because the consequence created is deliberate. They work considering the audience knows mud is not articulate, fifty-fifty baby elephants are large, and trips to the dentist are rarely fun.

Why is Irony Ofttimes Confused with Sarcasm?

Irony and sarcasm are commonly dislocated considering they are linked. Yet, sarcasm is non considered a literary device. Many people regard information technology as sharing elements of verbal irony or as a sub type.

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So, how can you tell the 2 apart? Sarcasm, like verbal irony, means saying the reverse of reality. However, sarcasm is sharp and designed to ridicule or hurt. Verbal irony normally does not and often describes a situation rather than a specific private.

What is Sarcasm?

For example:

  • Your director sneers at yous and says, “Well you never make mistakes at work, exercise you?”

As the annotate is personal and intended to hurt, yous tin can see this is sarcasm.

How Do Non-Verbal Cues Support Exact Irony?

To show that verbal irony is existence used, the speaker may give clues (called “non-verbal cues”) to help the person they are speaking to understand that they are speaking ironically.

Echoic Allusion

For example:

  • Reham walks into her office staffroom. She catches Tom continuing close to a platter of cookies someone has left out to share. Tom makes eye contact with her, covers his oral fissure with his hands and says, “I am
    not eating a cookie.”

In this instance, Tom’south body language and emphasis he puts on the word “definitely” shows he clearly is eating a cookie but is pretending not to in an agreeable way. These non-verbal cues assist explicate that he’south existence ironic.

Is Lying a Course of Verbal Irony?

As exact irony involves proverb one thing just meaning another, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is the aforementioned every bit lying. However, there is a deviation.

For example:

  • You might say, “I didn’t take the last cake,” if y’all did, but don’t desire to get caught. To exist more convincing, you lot could put your hands behind your back, milk shake your head, or expect confused. You are lying.

  • If you’re using verbal irony, you want the other person to know that yous did indeed take that final cake. You might slyly grinning, wink, and spread your hands wide in an exaggerated show of innocence. This is verbal irony.

If you lie, y’all’re intending to deceive and hoping not to get caught. Verbal irony is intentional, and it’s articulate you are not telling the truth.

How to Write Verbal Irony

Nosotros often utilize verbal irony in speech, because we share much meaning via the commitment. Without the not-verbal cues it’due south harder to spot verbal irony in text.

These 3 tips will assistance you use it effectively in fiction writing:


1: Use Description

As the reader can’t see a graphic symbol speaking, you lot can add together in extra description and/or effective verbs to make the meaning more than clear. Just don’t overdo it, every bit it will slow down the pace of dialogue.

For instance:

  • “I would
    do that!” he smirked.

Using the verb “smirked” highlights that he is not trying to lie, and the extra emphasis on “never” reinforces the impression that this is verbal irony.

  • “I would never exercise that,” she said, her face up artsy to the side in a display of mock-innocence.

The non-verbal cues, with the character putting her caput on 1 side coquettishly, are used to highlight this is verbal irony.

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2: Think of Character Intent

Knowing how characters are feeling, their personality, and the way they interact with others volition help y’all identify whether they typically use exact irony.

While verbal irony is ordinarily used, it’s less suitable for formal occasions or used towards someone in a more senior position. We also are less likely to use it towards strangers or in an unfamiliar setting.

3: Exaggerate the Verbal Irony

While we all want to write subtle prose, sometimes you lot’ll need to exist a little more obvious to make the verbal irony clear.

Just emphasizing a particular word, adding in a not-verbal cue, or exaggerating the reaction to irony can help arrive clear for your reader.

How Would You Use the Word “Irony” in a Sentence?

Let’s look at how you could use the word “irony” and its other forms accurately when writing.

Irony versus Ironic versus Ironically

  • Irony (noun): He uses
    to get his point across to the audience.
  • Ironic (describing word): She always talks in an
    manner, so it’due south hard to know if she’s beingness serious.
  • Ironically (adverb): I didn’t mean it literally; I was speaking

While verbal irony is simply one form of irony, it’south enough to say “irony” equally a catchall without explaining which one you are using.

Verbal Irony in Literature

Yous’ll find verbal irony scattered throughout literature as information technology’s a commonly used device.

These are a few famous examples:

“But Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable human.”

Julius Caesar past William Shakespeare.

Mark Antony appears to praise Brutus and the other assassins, while in reality he is condemning them.

“Today was a very cold and bitter solar day, as common cold and bitter equally a cup of hot chocolate.”

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography by Daniel Handler (pen proper name, Lemony Snicket).

This is an example of an ironic simile, every bit we know hot chocolate is warm and sweet, rather than biting and cold. Ironic similes are ane form of verbal irony.

“Yes, Quirrell was a not bad teacher. There was just that minor drawback of him having Lord Voldemort sticking out of the back of his head!”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling.

Harry makes it articulate to his teacher that this was a major, rather than a small-scale drawback. This is also an example of sarcasm, as Harry is trying to ridicule Professor Umbridge.

Last Reflections

Verbal irony is a commonly used literary technique that nosotros all utilize in everyday conversation. Information technology’s used deliberately and tin have a humorous or tragic effect.

Do be careful if you lot’re using verbal irony in prose. It’southward hard to capture the subtlety of commitment that makes information technology effective. Used badly, it can brand your writing difficult to understand.

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Verbal Irony is Best Defined as