ironic, ironical, ironically
For the adjective, choice between ironic and ironical seems to be determined largely by sentence rhythm. Both words properly mean ‘of the nature of irony’, i.e. implying the opposite of what is literally or normally meant by a word, look, etc.:

• She gave an ironical laugh as she looked at Guy —Olivia Manning, 1977.

In this sentence, ironical shows that the laugh was marking something other than the usual humour. Both words, however, are now increasingly used to mean simply ‘odd, strange, paradoxical’, and the same is true of the corresponding adverb ironically:

• It is paradoxical, ‘ironical’ as people say today, that the constitution should bestow this power on someone who laments constitutionitis in others —Observer, 1987

• It is ironic that such a beautiful orderly house should be the setting of our messy little farce —S. Mason, 1990

• Ironically the bombing of London was a blessing to the youthful generations that followed —I. &. P. Opie, 1969

• Ironically, many modern writers have been nihilistic toward modern culture —Dissent, AmE 2004.

These uses, which are well established despite frequent criticism of them, perhaps contain an echo of the concept of dramatic irony, in which an audience is made aware of an act or circumstance that affects the action on stage (or screen) in a way that is unknown to one or more of the participants in the drama.

Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ironical — I*ron ic*al, a. [LL. ironicus, Gr. ? dissembling: cf. F. ironique. See {Irony}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Pertaining to irony; containing, expressing, or characterized by, irony; as, an ironical remark. [1913 Webster] 2. Addicted to the use of irony;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ironical — that + clause (it s ironical that the weakest student in mathematics was elected class treasurer) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • ironical — index ironic Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • ironical — ironically, adv. ironicalness, n. /uy ron i keuhl/, adj. 1. pertaining to, of the nature of, exhibiting, or characterized by irony or mockery: an ironical compliment; an ironical smile. 2. using or prone to irony: an ironical speaker. [1570 80;… …   Universalium

  • ironical — adjective 1. characterized by often poignant difference or incongruity between what is expected and what actually is (Freq. 5) madness, an ironic fate for such a clear thinker it was ironical that the well planned scheme failed so completely •… …   Useful english dictionary

  • ironical — adjective a) Pertaining to irony; conveying or consisting of covert sarcasm; sarcastic under a serious or friendly pretense; as, an ironical compliment. b) Addicted to irony; using disguised sarcasm …   Wiktionary

  • ironical — ironic UK [aɪˈrɒnɪk] / US [aɪˈrɑnɪk] or ironical UK [aɪˈrɒnɪk(ə)l] / US [aɪˈrɑnɪk(ə)l] adjective 1) linguistics expressing the opposite of what you really think, especially in order to be humorous an ironic comment an ironic little smile 2) an… …   English dictionary

  • ironical — ironic / ironical [adj] sarcastic acrid, alert, arrogant, backbiting, biting, bitter, burlesque, caustic, chaffing, clever, contemptuous, contradictory, critical, cutting, cynical, defiant, derisive, disparaging, double edged, exaggerated,… …   New thesaurus

  • ironical — ironic ► ADJECTIVE 1) using or characterized by irony. 2) happening in the opposite way to what is expected. DERIVATIVES ironical adjective ironically adverb …   English terms dictionary

  • ironical — adjective see ironic …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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