For many years I thought the difference between facetiousness and sarcasm was that sarcasm meant the words were literally the opposite of the intended meaning and facetiousness referred to a statement, that at face value seems like sarcasm, but the words taken literally are still true.


Person A: "Oh yeah, loading the fridge on top of the car will definitely work."
Person B: "We're gonna need some really strong ropes."

In this scenario, Person A is being sarcastic and doesn't support the decision to load the fridge on top of the car. Person B is being (what I used to understand as) facetious in that they are voicing disagreement with the idea, but making a (jokingly) true statement about the ropes needed for the idea to succeed.

According to dictionary.com:


  1. not meant to be taken seriously or literally: a facetious remark.
  2. amusing; humorous.
  3. lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous:

What is the word for when a statement isn't meant to be taken seriously, but is literally true?

  • 2
    The word you want is irony.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 20, 2017 at 19:37
  • 1
    Irony has the meaning you need, but it also has other meanings, and it has a messy relationship with sarcasm. But that's an issue for the prescriptivists to take to their tombs. You can use the word in good faith; it is perfectly apt for your scenario.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 20, 2017 at 19:50
  • 1
    As you like. Done.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 20, 2017 at 19:54
  • @DanBron I definitely have prescriptivist tendencies, but accept that "sarcasm" now has assimilated "irony" and "facetiousness", and effectively lost its former meaning, which now falls to "acid-tongued" or "snarky" if a bit lighter. Feb 20, 2017 at 20:43
  • 2
    Irony has nothing whatsoever to do with this situation. Irony hinges on opposites, not truths. It says nothing about whether either the literal or intended meaning is true, only that they are opposite. Nor does irony imply anything about whether it is to be taken seriously or not. Facetious works just fine here.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 21, 2017 at 5:12

3 Answers 3


There's a word custom-tailored to this very situation:


a form of humor in which you use words to express the opposite of what the words really mean.

Macmillan, sense 1

  • 1
    I don't understand how this meets the "literally true" requirement, since irony is the "opposite of what the words really mean" Feb 20, 2017 at 20:20
  • 2
    The statement that they'll need strong ropes is literally true. The information that the statement is actually intended to convey, however, is that the fridge should not be placed on top of the car. He's saying the opposite of what he means. He's being ironic. (I'm explaining just in case it's actually not clear to you, I don't mind the downvote, don't worry about that.)
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 20, 2017 at 20:25
  • Thanks for the explanation. I understand that the sentence "Oh yeah, loading the fridge on top of the car will definitely work" is irony, because that statement is not literally true, but OP is asking for a word for statements that ARE literally true... "What is the word for when a statement isn't meant to be taken seriously, but is literally true?" Feb 20, 2017 at 20:51
  • 2
    I believe Irony to be correct here for Person Bs statement. They are stating a true fact, but they are implying that the whole idea is rather ridiculous. So the statement about the ropes being needed is ironic in the sense that while it is true, the reason to use the ropes in the first place is ridiculous.
    – gmiley
    Feb 21, 2017 at 1:33
  • 1
    @BradThomas The part about the ropes is true, however there is an unspoken implication that the idea of putting the fridge on top of the car is an incorrect way to move it. That is the irony part, not the bit about the ropes, the underlying/unspoken implication.
    – gmiley
    Feb 21, 2017 at 13:54

If you're asking for types of humor, I'd go with cynicism, irony, or mockery.


Person A: I think it's going to be hot and dry today.

Person B: It's not like we're in the desert or anything.


Person A: Hey, we can come back from a 35-0 deficit.

Person B: Yeah, sure, like you're going to tell me about the one time it happened before. I mean, what the heck, it is in Denver, after all.


Person A: That's a nice zit you have.

Person B: Thanks, I just had it stuffed.

  • 1
    "Hey, we can come back from a 28-3 deficit." - Tom Brady
    – stannius
    Feb 20, 2017 at 23:44

tongue in cheek

When someone speaks tongue-in-cheek, that means they're joking and kidding.

He always speaks tongue-in-cheek, he never takes things seriously.

by Fangsta March 18, 2003

Urban Dictionary

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