Irony – Concept, types and examples

We explain what irony is and the types of irony that are usually used. Also, examples of this figure of speech and what sarcasm is.

The irony transmits the information contrary to the message that is said or written.

What is irony?

It is known as irony to a rhetorical figure that consists of transmit the information completely contrary to the message that is said or written. It can be used both so that the receiver recognizes the ironic twist and thus generate a certain sense of humor or complicity, or that he cannot detect it and the expression constitutes a kind of offense.

In that sense, the irony it is not usually accompanied by explicit indicators that clarify the real meaning of what is said, although it is possible to resort to gestures or, in written communication, to quotation marks, emotional icons or a sign specifically used for irony in certain contexts: (?).

The word irony comes from the Greek word and goöneia, which can be translated as dissimulation or pretense, since whoever uses it would simulate an ignorance that he does not possess. An equivalent would be the Hispanic expression “play dumb.”

It also happens that, being a complex turn of language, usually requires a cultural background or knowledge of the use of the language to be able to detect it in most cases. That is why it is so difficult to translate into other languages, or so complex to detect by foreign speakers.

Types of irony

In literary texts and narratives, irony can be used as a stylistic or poetic figure, beyond the verbal irony of everyday language. This occurs to the extent that a character is made to say something that contradicts the common knowledge of the readers or audience.

For example, it is ironic that a character fervently expresses a point of view that he will later suffer, or that he incurs attitudes that he normally rejects. This is how situational irony is produced.

It is also possible for a character to take for granted something that the public knows to be false and act accordingly, as Juliet does in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, committing suicide after believing his lover dead. This figure is known as tragic irony.

Examples of irony

  • To reject a threat: “Oops, I’m shaking with fear” (verbal irony).
  • A burning fire station (situational irony).
  • On King Oedipus From Sophocles, King Oedipus promises the people to punish the murderer of the previous king with exile, and investigations reveal that it was himself, without knowing it, that he must banish himself (tragic irony).
  • When referring to an enemy: “Juan and I have a great time” (verbal irony).
  • A character carefully prepares a trap and ends up falling into it (situational irony).

Irony and sarcasm

irony and sarcasm
Sarcasm is a form of cruel mockery or scathing irony.

Often it is difficult to distinguish between irony and sarcasm. Perhaps because the latter includes irony in certain cases, provided it is a particularly cruel one.

That is to say: while irony consists of expressing something with the opposite terms, sarcasm on the other hand consists of a form of cruel mockery or scathing irony with which one seeks to offend or mistreat someone.

That is sarcasm constitutes the highest and most obvious degree of irony, to the extent that it has the more or less explicit intention of causing pain or becoming an affront.