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i·ron·ic (ī-rŏnĭk) also i·ron·i·cal (ī-rŏnĭ-kəl)
adj.
1. Characterized by or constituting irony.
2. Given to the use of irony.
3. Poignantly contrary to what was expected or intended: madness, an ironic fate for such a clear thinker.

i·roni·cal·ly adv.
i·roni·cal·ness n.

Usage Note: In its nonliterary uses, irony often refers to a perceived incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs, especially if what actually occurs thwarts human wishes or designs. People sometimes misuse the words ironic, irony, and ironically, applying them to events and circumstances that might better be described as simply coincidental or improbable, in that the events suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly. In our 1987 survey, 78 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the use of ironically in the sentence In 1969 Susan 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 Susan 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.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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