Irony (from the Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία eirōneía, meaning dissimulation or feigned ignorance) is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning. No written method for indicating irony exists, though an irony punctuation mark has been proposed. In the 1580s, Henry Denham introduced a rhetorical question mark or percontation point which looks like a reversed question mark. This mark was also proposed by the French poet Marcel Bernhardt at the end of the 19th century to indicate irony or sarcasm.
Ironic statements (verbal irony) are statements that imply a meaning in opposition to their literal meaning. A situation is often considered to be ironic (situational irony) if there is an "incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result." The discordance of verbal irony may be deliberately created as a means of communication (as in art or rhetoric). Descriptions or depictions of situational irony, whether in fiction or in non-fiction, serves the communicative function of sharpening or highlighting certain discordant features of reality. Verbal and situational irony are often used for emphasis in the assertion of a truth. The ironic form of simile, used in sarcasm, and some forms of litotes emphasize one's meaning by the deliberate use of language which states the opposite of the truth — or drastically and obviously understates a factual connection.
In dramatic irony, the author causes a character to speak or act erroneously, out of ignorance of some portion of the truth of which the audience is aware. In other words, the audience knows the character is making a mistake, even as the character is making it. This technique highlights the importance of a particular truth by portraying a person who is strikingly unaware of it.
Famous quotes containing the word irony:
“Irony, forsooth! Guard yourself, Engineer, from the sort of irony that thrives up here; guard yourself altogether from taking on their mental attitude! Where irony is not a direct and classic device of oratory, not for a moment equivocal to a healthy mind, it makes for depravity, it becomes a drawback to civilization, an unclean traffic with the forces of reaction, vice and materialism.”
—Thomas Mann (18751955)
“English audiences of working people are like an instrument that responds to the player. Thought ripples up and down them, and if in some heart the speaker strikes a dissonance there is a swift answer. Always the voice speaks from gallery or pit, the terrible voice which detaches itself in every English crowd, full of caustic wit, full of irony or, maybe, approval.”
—Mary Heaton Vorse (18741966)
“Humor brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.”
—Agnes Repplier (18581950)