In one of the most interesting irony examples, the most shoplifted book in America is The Bible.


In one of the more hilarious examples of irony, McDonalds' employee health page, which is now shut down, once warned against eating McDonald's burgers and fries.

IronyMark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock

Every year ABC cuts down A Charlie Brown Christmas—a movie about the over-commercialization of the holidays—to make room for more commercials.

IronyMoviestore Collection/Shutterstock

He once entered a “Charlie Chaplin walk” contest… and came in 20th. If you think these ironic examples are funny, these hilarious classroom stories are guaranteed to give you a laugh.


The only losing basketball coach in University of Kansas history is James Naismith—the man who invented basketball in 1891. This hilarious example of irony proves that just because you thought of the idea doesn't always mean you'll be the best at executing it.

IronyNatalia Macheda/Shutterstock

The site where Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC is now a no-kill animal shelter for homeless cats.

IronyMikhail Kolesnikov/Shutterstock

The first man to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel died after slipping on an orange peel.

IronyIryna Demydenko/Shutterstock

The condition of not being able to pronounce the letter R is called… “rhotacism.”

IronyDariush M/Shutterstock

Bill Hillman, a bullfighting enthusiast, wrote a book called How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, all about how to avoid being gored by bulls. Three weeks after the release of the book, he was gored by a bull.

IronyBlend Images/Shutterstock

In 2011, the winners of an elementary school spelling bee in Utah received a trophy reading “Viewmont Spellling Bee, 1st Place.” Quite the example of irony—not only that the trophy contained a misspelling, but that it was the word “spelling.” Here are 20 grammar jokes every word nerd will appreciate.

Richard Mitchell/Shutterstock

In 2002, a tree was planted in a park in Los Angeles in memory of Beatles guitarist George Harrison. The tree later died after being infested by beetles.


Gary Kremen, the founder of, encouraged everyone he knew to join it, including his girlfriend. She eventually left him for a man she met on


When crossword puzzles debuted in the early twentieth century, the New York Times was very critical of them, calling them “a primitive sort of mental exercise.

” In 1942, the Times published its first crossword puzzle, and today, the New York Times crossword is the most famous one in America.

If you're laughing at these irony examples, then check out these 25 clever jokes that'll make you sound smart.


In 1985, a group of New Orleans lifeguards gathered at the municipal pool to celebrate the fact that no one had drowned at the pool that past summer. After the party, they discovered the fully-clothed body of a man who had drowned in the pool.


In 2009, the Guinness Book of World records named Jonathan Lee Riches the record-holder for suing the largest number of people. Angrily declaring that the Guinness Book “has no right to publish my work, my legal masterpieces,” he sued them.

3 Types of Irony Every Storyteller Should Know

We encounter irony every day: in our favorite movies, TV shows, and in our own lives. Most people have a general understanding of irony but there are also a lot of misconceptions about it. For example, were you aware that there are 3 different types of irony?

In this article, we’re going to define irony in all its variations. Whether you’re writing a short story or a screenplay, irony can be a powerful storytelling tool. You’ll be able to recognize the different types of irony and understand how they work. The next step is to carry this understanding straight into your next writing project.

Irony is the opposite of expectation. When what we expect to happen doesn’t happen, it creates conflict

When we know the truth about a dangerous situation and we watch someone else get close to that danger, it creates suspense.

When someone says one thing but means another, it creates complexity.

All of these elements (conflict, suspense, complexity) are fundamental building blocks in storytelling. You don’t need to be an expert on irony to be a good storyteller. But it sure helps. Let’s define irony before we move on to the various types of irony.

Irony is when the reality is opposite of what we expect. The key here is “opposite,” not just different. This incongruity can be found in language (what we say vs. what we mean) or circumstances (what we expect to happen vs. what actually happens).

What are the three types of irony?

  • Dramatic irony
  • Verbal irony
  • Situational irony

Irony can be sad and tragic, or it can funny and satirical. In other words, there are limitless ways you can wield irony in your stories.

There are 3 different types of irony: dramatic, verbal, and situational. Each has a different definition and function in storytelling.

Let’s move on to some quick definitions of these main types along with a few subtypes or irony that provide even more complexity and depth to ironic storytelling.

Dramatic irony is when we have more information about the circumstances than a character.

Ex. When you know a trap has been set and watch someone walk into it.

That is dramatic irony.

Types of Irony: Dramatic Irony example

In The Matrix, Neo and his crew are betrayed by one of their own. If we had learned of this at the moment of betrayal, we certainly would have been shocked but because we learn about it before any of the other characters, we have a nice, juicy piece of dramatic irony.

Here's the scene as it was written in the screenplay. Follow the image link to read the entire scene in StudioBinder.


Read the full scene here

Within dramatic irony, there is only one subtype: tragic irony. The difference between these two types of irony is slight but it’s an important distinction to make. Basically, tragic irony is dramatic irony with tragic consequences — it's as easy as that.

There are also distinct stages of dramatic irony, or the order of operations when deploying dramatic irony. Dramatic irony needs to be introduced, it needs to develop over time, and it needs to be released. To successfully incorporate dramatic irony, these stages are essential.

Learn more about dramatic irony →

Verbal irony is when someone says something, but means the opposite.

Ex. When you get an “F” on your term paper and say, “Wow, I did a really good job on my term paper!”

See also:  Why do some olympic records get broken?

That is verbal irony.

Types of Irony: Verbal irony example

In Mean Girls, Cady's first inkling that Regina George truly is “plastic” comes in this scene. A fellow classmate approaches Cady and Regina, who gives her a glowing compliment on her skirt. But in a perfect example of verbal irony, Regina actually meant quite the opposite. 

Here's the scene as it was written in the screenplay. Follow the image link to read the entire scene in StudioBinder.


Read the full scene here

Within this verbal irony general definition, there are 4 types of verbal irony: 

  • Sarcasm
  • Understatement
  • Overstatement
  • Socratic irony

Each one brings a particular element so understanding which one to use and for what purpose is essential. You can find links to each of these in navigation at the bottom of the page.

Learn more about verbal irony →

Situational irony is when we expect one thing, but get the opposite.

Ex. When you buy a can of Coke but it has Pepsi inside.

That is situational irony.

Types of Irony: Situational irony example


WOTD – 28 February 2008

English Wikipedia has an article on:



First attested in 1502. From Middle French ironie, from Old French, from Latin īrōnīa, from Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία (eirōneía, “irony, pretext”), from εἴρων (eírōn, “one who feigns ignorance”).



irony (countable and uncountable, plural ironies)

  1. (rhetoric) A statement that, when taken in context, may actually mean something different from, or the opposite of, what is written literally; the use of words expressing something other than their literal intention, often in a humorous context.[1]
    • [1835, L[arret] Langley, A Manual of the Figures of Rhetoric, […], Doncaster: Printed by C. White, Baxter-Gate, OCLC 1062248511, page 11:Irony, saying what it ne'er intends,Censures with praise, and speaks to foes as friends.]
  2. Dramatic irony: a theatrical effect in which the meaning of a situation, or some incongruity in the plot, is understood by the audience, but not by the characters in the play.
  3. Ignorance feigned for the purpose of confounding or provoking an antagonist; Socratic irony.
  4. The state of two usually unrelated entities, parties, actions, etc. being related through a common connection in an uncommon way.
  5. (informal)[2][3] Contradiction between circumstances and expectations; condition contrary to what might be expected. [from the 1640s]

Usage notes[edit]

  • Some authorities omit the last sense, “contradiction of circumstances and expectations, condition contrary to what might be expected”;[3] however, it has been in common use since the 1600s.[4]

Derived terms[edit]



The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


  1. ^ Specktor, Brandon (3 November 2018), “Dictionary Editors Say This Is the Most Misused Word in the English Language”, in Reader's Digest‎[1], Trusted Media Brands, Inc.

    : “Situational irony occurs when, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, 'a state of affairs or an event… seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.


  2. ^ Harris, Bob (2008-06-30), “Isn’t It Ironic? Probably Not”, in The New York Times‎[2], retrieved 2011-01-06
  3. ↑ 3.0 3.1 ironic, TheFreeDictionary.

    com, accessed 4 November 2011: The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply “coincidental” or “improbable,” in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly.

    Thus 78 percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of ironically in the sentence In 1969 Susie moved from Ithaca to California where she met her husband-to-be, who, ironically, also came from upstate New York.

    Some Panelists noted that this particular usage might be acceptable if Susie had in fact moved to California in order to find a husband, in which case the story could be taken as exemplifying the folly of supposing that we can know what fate has in store for us. By contrast, 73 percent accepted the sentence Ironically, even as the government was fulminating against American policy, American jeans and videocassettes were the hottest items in the stalls of the market, where the incongruity can be seen as an example of human inconsistency.

  4. ^ irony, Online Etymology Dictionary

iron +‎ -y



irony (comparative more irony, superlative most irony)

  1. Of or pertaining to the metal iron.
    The food had an irony taste to it.



Examples of Irony

The basic meaning of irony is the difference between how things seem to be and the reality. As a literary technique it is used when a certain outcome is revealed, but is not what readers were expecting or hoping for. Irony can be difficult to define; it's often subjective and depends on the audience's expectations.

Take the song “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. There were many heated debates when it came out over whether the situations described in the song are actually ironic or just unfortunate incidents. And over the years there were more debates about whether the song really is ironic because it's called “Ironic” but nothing in the song is ironic. Confusing? Yes, that's irony.

While it is possible for one person to find something ironc that another person does not, there are several defined types for irony that apply in life and in literature as you can see from the irony examples below.

There are many ways to play with irony. This is great because it brings added layers and texture to a story. Irony is predominantly defined within three main categories: dramatic irony, situational irony, and verbal irony. Let's have some fun with each in these examples of irony.

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony is used when the audience knows more about what's going on than the characters. This creates suspense, or humor, as the audience waits to see if the characters will come to understand what's really happening. Dramatic irony heightens the audience's anticipation, hopes, or fears, but it can also be used for comedic effect.

Have you ever read a novel or watched a play or movie where the narrator was omniscient (knew what every character was thinking and feeling)? These are great setups for dramatic irony.

  • A novel's heroine visits her favorite café every day from 11am to 1pm to work on her manuscript. Her brother's best friend knows this and is trying to find a way to ask her out on a date.The day he gets up the courage to go to the café she's not there. Where is she? The reader knows she's been taken ill, he does not. Now, a healthy dose of suspense is added to the plot.
  • Let's take the same woman and her brother's best friend in a different, comedic direction. She still visits the café every day and her brother's best friend is still determined to tell her how he feels. In this instance, he wants to leave a love poem at her door. One day, thinking she'll be at the café, he goes to her apartment to slide his poem under her door, but we know she's running late and is still at home. Right when he bends down to push the piece of paper under her door, she flings it open in a hurry, steps out, and trips right over him!
  • A woman thinks her boyfriend is about to break up with her. He hasn't been himself lately, acting distracted and distant. We know he bought her an engagement ring and is nervous she won't say yes. He calls her one afternoon and simply says, “I need to see you. Meet me at Columbus Square at six o'clock.” She's sure he's going to break up with her. But when she arrives, he's set up a beautiful proposal with a string quartet, dozens of roses, and a huge sparkler of a diamond.
  • In Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Macbeth appears to be loyal to Duncan, but he is actually plotting his murder. Duncan doesn't know Macbeth's plans, but the audience knows what is going to happen.
  • George Orwell makes full use of dramatic irony in Animal Farm. Throughout the book the reader knows many crucial facts that the characters are not aware of. Such as the animals believing Boxer was sent to the hospital, when the reader knows the pigs sold him to the slaughter house and used the money to buy whiskey for themselves.

Dramatic irony has a nice place in both comedy and tragedy. As readers wait to see when the main character will “catch on”, suspense is building and the pages are turning. For more examples, take a look at Dramatic Irony Examples.

Situational Irony

This type of irony occurs when something happens that is completely different from what was expected. Usually, these instances incorporate some type of contradiction and a certain level of shock.

  • An ambulance driver speeds to the scene of a road accident. The victim isn't badly hurt until the ambulance driver whips around a corner and runs over the victim's legs, not realizing she'd crawled to the center of the road.
  • The whole story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a case of situational irony. Dorothy and her friends are in search of external forces to help them get what they need, but discover that they each had what they needed the whole time. Dorothy learns that the shoes she was wearing can get her home. Scarecrow discovers he was smart all along. The Tinman finally learns that he has a good heart. The cowardly Lion turns out to be extremely courageous.
  • The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin tells the tale of a wife who learned her husband was dead. She felt a sense of freedom, thinking about her new life out from under his thumb. Suddenly, the husband returns (he never was dead) and she dies of shock.
  • A man has been working hard all his life, saving a portion of every paycheck for retirement. Upon retirement he plans to move to the Virgin Islands, sit back and relax. On the morning of this retirement party, he dies of a sudden, massive heart attack.
  • A man buys a gun to protect his home, but during a break-in the intruder wrestles the gun from him and shoots him.

For more examples, check out Examples of Situational Irony.

Verbal Irony

This type of irony comes to play when a speaker says one thing, but means another.

Definitions and Examples of Irony in Literature

Check out the lyrics and more.

Listen to Flocabulary’s Figurative Language song. You’ll learn all about irony, metaphor and more.

Articulating a simple irony definition can be daunting. It’s a large concept, but irony can be broken down into three central categories. We’ll define each of these three main types of irony, and provide examples from plays, short stories, essays and poems.


Definition: There are three types of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic.

Verbal irony occurs when a speaker’s intention is the opposite of what he or she is saying. For example, a character stepping out into a hurricane and saying, “What nice weather we’re having!”

Situational irony occurs when the actual result of a situation is totally different from what you’d expect the result to be. Sitcoms often use situational irony.

For example, a family spends a lot of time and money planning an elaborate surprise birthday party for their mother to show her how much they care. But it turns out, her birthday is next month, and none of them knew the correct date.

She ends up fuming that no one cares enough to remember her birthday.

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows a key piece of information that a character in a play, movie or novel does not. This is the type of irony that makes us yell, “DON’T GO IN THERE!!” during a scary movie. Dramatic irony is huge in Shakespeare’s tragedies, most famously in Othello and Romeo and Juliet, both of which we’ll examine later.

Why Writers Use It: Irony inverts our expectations. It can create the unexpected twist at the end of a joke or a story that gets us laughing — or crying. Verbal irony tends to be funny; situational irony can be funny or tragic; and dramatic irony is often tragic.

Irony in Shakespeare and Literature

Dramatic Irony in Othello

Othello is one of the most heartrending tragedies ever written, and Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony is one of the reasons the play is so powerful to read and watch.

We know that the handkerchief used as proof of Desdemona’s infidelity was, in fact, stolen by Emilia at Iago’s behest. Desdemona was framed by Iago, and we know she is innocent. But we are powerless to stop Othello; he has resolved to murder his wife.

Iago, whom Othello considers a friend, has been plotting Othello’s demise for the duration of the play. Othello does not know that Iago is the one pulling the strings, but we do.

We know he is the one who convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio, even as we watch him pretend to help Cassio after he is wounded. Only we see Iago kill Roderigo before he can reveal the truth.

In this way, we are complicit with Iago’s misdeeds. We are the only witnesses, and yet we can do nothing.

Dramatic Irony in Romeo and Juliet

In the final act of this archetypal love story, Shakespeare employs dramatic irony to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.


Irony (pronounced ‘eye-run-ee’) is when there are two contradicting meanings of the same situation, event, image, sentence, phrase, or story.  In many cases, this refers to the difference between expectations and reality.

For example, if you go sight-seeing anywhere in the world today, you will see crowds of people who are so busy taking cell-phone pictures of themselves in front of the sight that they don’t actually look at what they came to see with their own eyes.  This is ironic, specifically, situational irony. This one situation has two opposing meanings that contradict expectations: (1) going to see a sight and prove that you were there (2) not enjoying the thing you went to see.

Irony is often used for critical or humorous effect in literature, music, art, and film (or a lesson).

  In conversation, people often use verbal irony to express humor, affection, or emotion, by saying the opposite of what they mean to somebody who is expected to recognize the irony.

  “I hate you” can mean “I love you”—but only if the person you’re saying it to already knows that! This definition is, of course, related to the first one (as we expect people’s words to reflect their meaning) and in most cases, it can be considered a form of sarcasm.

II. Examples of Irony

Example 1

A popular visual representation of irony shows a seagull sitting on top of a “no seagulls” sign. The meaning of the sign is that seagulls are not allowed in the area.  The seagull sitting on the sign not only contradicts it, but calls attention to the absurdity of trying to dictate where seagulls may or may not go, which makes us laugh.

Example 2

Another example is a staircase leading up to a fitness center, with an escalator running alongside it. All the gym patrons are using the escalator and no one is on the stairs.

Given that this is a fitness center, we’d expect that everyone should be dedicated to health and exercise, and so they would use the free exercise offered by the stairs.

But instead, they flock to the comfort of the escalator, in spite of the fact that they’ve come all this way just to exercise. Once again, our expectations are violated and the result is irony and humor.

Example 3

Aleister Crowley, a famous English mystic of the early twentieth century, who taught that a person could do anything if they mastered their own mind, died of heroin addiction. This is ironic because the way he died completely contradicts what he taught.

III. The Importance of Irony

The most common purpose of irony is to create humor and/or point out the absurdity of life. As in the all of the examples above, life has a way of contradicting our expectations, often in painful ways. Irony generally makes us laugh, even when the circumstances are tragic, such as in Aleister Crowley’s failure to beat his addiction.

We laugh not because the situations were tragic, but because they violate our expectations.  The contrast between people’s expectations and the reality of the situations is not only funny, but also meaningful because it calls our attention to how wrong human beings can be.  Irony is best when it points us towards deeper meanings of a situation.

IV. Examples of Irony in Literature

Example 1

In O. Henry’s famous short story The Gift of the Magi, a husband sells his prized watch so that he can buy combs as a gift for his wife. Meanwhile, the wife sells her beautiful hair so she can buy a watch-chain for her husband. The characters’ actions contradict each other’s expectations and their efforts to give each other gifts make the gifts useless.

Example 2

Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amantillado is full of verbal and situational irony, including the name of the main character. He’s called Fortunato (Italian for “fortunate”), in spite of the fact that he’s extremely unlucky throughout the story.

Example 3

Water, water everywhere, nor any a drop to drink.

This line from Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” describes the dark irony of a sailor dying of thirst on his boat while he is surrounded by water.

V. Examples of Irony in Pop Culture

Example 1

Alannis Morisette’s popular song “Ironic” contains such lyrics as:

  • Rain on your wedding day
  • A free ride when you’ve already paid
  • Good advice that you just didn’t take

These are not examples of irony. They’re just unfortunate coincidences. However, the fact that her song is called “Ironic” and yet has such unironic lyrics is itself ironic. The title contradicts the lyrics of the song. It isn’t, so your expectations are violated.

Example 2

In Disney’s Aladdin, Aladdin wishes for riches and power so that he can earn the right to marry Princess Jasmine. Thanks to the genie’s magic, he gets all the wealth he could ask for and parades through the streets as a prince.

But, ironically, this makes him unattractive to the princess and he finds himself further away from his goal than he was as a poor beggar. In this case, it’s the contrast between Aladdin’s expectations and results which are ironic.

Related terms


Sarcasm is a kind of verbal irony that has a biting or critical tone, although it can be used to express affection between friends It is one of the most common forms of irony in fiction and in real life. We’ve all heard people use verbal irony to mock, insult, or poke fun at someone or something. For example, here’s a famous sarcastic line from The Princess Bride:

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

In the scene, Wesley is insulting the intelligence of Vizzini the Sicilian using verbal irony (the word “truly” makes it even more ironic, since Wesley is reassuring Vizzini of the truth of an untrue statement). The line is both ironic and mean, and therefore it’s sarcastic. One needs to be a little careful with sarcasm, since you can easily hurt people’s feelings or make them angry.

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