rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning

Irony is a term for a figure of speech.[1] Irony is when something happens that is opposite from what is expected. It can often be funny, but it is also used in tragedies. There are many types of irony, including those listed below:

  • Dramatic irony, when the audience knows something is going to happen on stage that the characters on stage do not.
  • Socratic irony, when someone (usually a teacher) pretends to be stupid in order to show how stupid his pupils are (while at the same time the reader or audience understand the situation).
  • Cosmic irony, when something that everyone thinks will happen actually happens very differently.
  • Situational irony e.g. Mr. Smith gets a parking ticket. This is ironic because Mr. Smith is a traffic warden.
  • Verbal irony is an absence of expression and intention. Sarcasm may sometimes involve verbal irony.
  • Irony of fate is the misfortune in the result of fate or chance.
  • The difference between of things seem to be or reality.
An improvised cowbell used for sheep or goats. The bell was found in 1988 in a field near Tuqu' (Tekoa) in the Judean hills, the West Bank. The bell's body is made of aluminum, probably a broken kitchen utensil, while the clapper is a brass cartridge case. The combination of a peaceful, pastoral use and a militant detail gives this item an ironic character, symbolizing the tragic daily reality of the Middle East conflict.


  • In Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, Juliet takes a potion that will put her to sleep, making her look dead. She does this in the hopes of being reunited with Romeo. He incorrectly learns of her death, and kills himself. This is an example of dramatic irony, as the reader/viewer knows she is not dead, but Romeo does not.
  • A common example of cosmic irony could be that a child wants some kind of pudding, and misbehaves to try to get it. The parent withholds it because of the child's behavior.
  • Verbal irony can be found in sarcasm, but not just that.
  • In Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex, Oedipus acts out based on the knowledge of his fate which in turn leads to the fulfillment of the tragic fate. This is an example of how fate plays on irony.


  1. "Irony" at; retrieved 2012-1-14.