I am calling this person something that is the exact opposite for what he actually is.

I call this person "traditional" using a sort of ironic(?) address because he is in fact a modernist reformer rather than traditionalist.

Is this a misuse of the word "ironic" or does it fit? Overall, I use it humorously.

  • 2
    If the intention is to be neither malicious nor dismissive, it's gentle irony, not sarcasm. Techically, it's antiphrasis (saying the opposite of what is meant, for effect rather than to deceive). But the person thus joshed may not see it as such; care is needed. May 2, 2015 at 14:32
  • 4
    Etymology is your friend here. Other modern English words using the sarc- Greek root include sarcophagus and sarcoma, and they all refer to the meaning of the Greek root: 'flesh'. A sarcophagus is a massive stone coffin called a 'flesh-eater' (Gk phagein 'to eat'), and a sarcoma is a tumor of connective tissue. Sarcasm is language that cuts the flesh of the addressee. Metaphorically, of course. May 2, 2015 at 14:32
  • Beyond humorous, are you speaking in a friendly or cutting way? That's the difference between just ironic and sarcastic (as well as ironic). May 2, 2015 at 19:40
  • I second @EdwinAshworth's suggestion of antiphrasis. Irony is more complex than simple opposites - it also holds the concept of incongruity. Recent usage, though, has watered this down. Sarcasm has an element of offensiveness, as others have observed.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 14, 2016 at 0:54

4 Answers 4


No it doesn't.

Sarcasm is what you're using.

From oxford:

a way of using words that are the opposite of what you mean in order to be unpleasant to somebody or to make fun of them

‘That will be useful,’ she snapped with heavy sarcasm (= she really thought it would not be useful at all).

Go with sarcastic


Sarcasm is actually a subset of irony. To wit:


Sarcasm is yet another popular form of irony where the user intends to wittily attack or make a derogatory statement about something or someone. Often, sarcasm is confused with irony instead of being a recognized form of irony. Example: A beautiful actress walked by a table of talent agents as one said “there goes a good time that was had by all.” The talent agent said the phrase referring to the young actress’ extracurricular activities with fellow talent agents. It was a derogatory statement, yet created with wit. Example: At a party a lady tells Winston Churchhill he is drunk to which Churchhill said "My dear, you are ugly...but tomorrow I shall be sober." Example: In "The Canterbury Tales" Chaucer criticizes the clergy who had become corrupt, by referring to the Friar as a "wanton and merry" person who takes bribes and seduces women. Sarcasm can often be funny and witty, yet simultaneously it can be hurtful and humiliating.


So you don't actually have to choose between the two. If your irony is biting, it is sarcasm. If your friend can take it without offense, it can be both.


I am calling this person something that is the exact opposite for what he actually is. .... Is this a misuse of the word "ironic" or does it fit? Overall, I use it humorously

It is the correct use of the word:


using words that mean the opposite of what you really think (especially in order to be funny)

sarcastic is more malicious (it is similar, it can be used to be funny, but, mainly)

using words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation,


Here's the definition of irony :


The use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning

Here's the definition of sarcasm :


the use of irony to mock or convey contempt

Going by these definitions, all sarcasm involves irony, but not all irony involves sarcasm. For an ironic statement to be considered sarcastic, the intent of the statement involves mockery / contempt.

So if your statement was intended to mock the person in question, it was sarcastic... but also ironic. If no mockery was intended, it was ironic, but not sarcastic.

I noticed, however, that many Americans no longer distinguish between sarcasm and irony, and often use the term sarcasm when they should use the term irony. If this trend continues, the term sarcasm may eventually become a synonym for irony and effectively replace the term in the long run. Language always evolves.

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