How did the word "Utopia" (coined by Sir Thomas More) come to mean an ideal place when the Greek etymology specifically means "Not a place."

Relatedly, while this might be the prime use of the word "irony" or "ironic", does anyone have a suggestion for a word matching the general public's ideal definition of "Irony?"

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    Surely Utopia came to mean an ideal place because More defined it like that when he coined the word. It's also a homophone for eutopia (good place). In calling his place "Utopia" More not only made it entirely fictional ("No place") but also recognised that no place meets that ideal. That may well be ironic. I don't understand what you want in your secondary question.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 21, 2013 at 12:04
  • No place is ideal. Even the Garden of Eden had a serpent. So Utopia cannot exist: it's strictly a realm of the imagination, from Plato to the present generation of politically correct preachers. And as Andrew Leach says, that's how More defined it.
    – user21497
    Apr 21, 2013 at 12:10
  • Ouch. Excuse my incorrect correction, it is indeed "More" not "Moore." Apr 21, 2013 at 12:15
  • Related
    – Robusto
    Apr 21, 2013 at 14:02
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    There are two interesting questions here, that would be better asked as two separate questions, I think. Apr 21, 2013 at 20:16

2 Answers 2


On the second question. Often one hears the word irony when two events are related. Irony, in this context, means a poignant juxtaposition. If that quality is missing, the related events are mere coincidence. Hope that helps.

  • Agreed. However, in clarifying my question; have you, or has anyone found a word that fits the "Popular Culture" definition of Irony, which is more aptly - as you mentioned - correlated to coincidence. To put it simply, what is the correct word for the definition of "Irony?"
    – Dutch
    Apr 23, 2013 at 12:38
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    Irony actually has nothing to do with either of these things. Irony is what most people think is called sarcasm - to speak such that it is understood from tone or usage that you mean something quite different than what you nominatively say. To be ironic is to speak in the fashion of the Eiron, a character in Greek theater, who would serve a purpose kind of similar to the "inner monologue" you hear for character thoughts in some sitcoms - he would say the things that the characters can't say. One example: a new prince tells of his conquests afar, and the Eiron says "and then I woke up." Jun 1, 2014 at 3:11

Utopia means "no place", in the sense that in no place in this world is there

  • no suffering
  • no hunger
  • no dying

In other words, it is out of reach.

  • 3
    'Eutopia means "no place."' — no. "Eutopia" means "good place" ("eu" as in "euphoria", "eugenics", etc.). "Utopia" means "no place". In English, they are generally pronounced the same way, which is More's irony. Jul 27, 2020 at 0:50
  • Although it's poorly explained, this is the usual intended meaning (i.e. it's too good to be true, it's just a dream, nowhere is really like that). @Vivienne, please try to flesh out your answer a tiny bit, I will add a couple of tiny edits in a moment ... Aug 2, 2020 at 19:45

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