The Difference Between Irony and Satire

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Gotcha! It’s time for humor!

You may hear that humor divides into a couple of categories. Some of them are used to make people laugh, others – to make you cringe or even offend. Today our topic is aimed to spell out the difference between irony and satire. Frequently we react with the phrase “it’s so ironically,” but do we understand what it initially means?

Let’s discover the purpose and meaning of each type and consider situations when you can use them and not offend people with your joke. 

The purpose of irony

Irony – is a confidant kind of humor to sarcasm. It may bring different moods with it – from friendly to sad or aggressive. People use irony in their speeches, texts, and stories to highlight the importance of any particular aspect of their tale. The format of irony usually consists in using words that mean one value, but in fact, the narrator lays the opposite meaning in it.

One distinctive feature of irony is that your conversationalist has to understand the meaning you put in this figure of speech. So, the irony is needed to be quite light and transparent. It is not obligatory to guide the irony directly to the second speaker of your dialogue – it may point at different things or actions around you.

For instance, if you want to witty mention that it is freezing today, you may say:

“So hot today, feel like I’m in the Bahamas.”

Or, if you want to slightly needle your friend for the coat that doesn’t match their whole look, you can carefully tell them something like:

“Have you fleed from Gucci’s fashion show?”

The meaning of satire

Have you seen the Sherlock series? Well, if so, imagine that irony is a Dr.Watson – a funny friend that does not offend people and is always here for you to elevate your mood, even if he is too serious sometimes. And here comes professor Moriarty – it is satire.

Satire is a kind of evil way to express your thoughts because this figure of speech is aimed to highlight the disadvantages of your conversationalist’s thoughts, ideas, or actions sharply. Also, people can guide satire to laugh at social aspects: politics, state order, educational systems, etc. It is also an indirect method to show your negative intentions to someone. So, be careful while using satire – it has a regular tendency to offend.

For example, you are talking to your colleague on the last day you are working on your current job, and they are trying to hurt you with some offensive words. Then your dialogue can take the next form:

Colleague: “When are you finally quitting this place?”

You: “Earlier than your inferiority complex disappears.”

Or, if you are writing a text for your Instagram post and want to complain about a certain group of people, you can include some phrases like:

“…and obviously that evolutionary progress passed by them….”


Now you understand that satire and irony dramatically differ from each other. When irony can be a friendly way to point at some situations to laugh together with your friends, satire is an instrument to make you laugh AT your friends (however, we highly recommend not to use this method towards your close friends as it can offend them.)

Irony and satire are not the only kinds of humor – there are also sarcasm, comedy, grotesque, burlesque, parody, and many-many others… It takes a lot of time to understand each one and use them correctly.

Anyway, you have just made a first step to the knowledge of types of humor. Congratulations!