Irony (n): the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
This is a blanket definition of irony when in fact; there are many different forms of irony. Too many people use irony as a catchall term to refer to anything out of the ordinary, amusing, or dramatic. The ignorance stops here. By understanding the various forms it comes in, you will (hopefully) use irony correctly.
If one of your friends or classmates comes to you and says, “I wish my professor would call on me more, I love the feeling of absolute terror you get when everyone in the class is staring at you.” Unless they’re some kind of masochist, they obviously don’t enjoy being spontaneously called on and suffering the scrutiny of their classmates. This is known as verbal irony though it is usually referred to as sarcasm.
The most common irony is situational irony, which refers the actions of someone based on an expectation that lead directly to the outcome they wish to avoid. For example, in the movie Shrek, it was expected that “love’s true form” for Fiona would be human when in reality it was an ogre because Shrek loved her ogre form.
In the works of drama or fiction, dramatic irony is when the reader or audience is let in on a fact that is unknown to most of the characters. The most famous example is in Romeo & Juliet when the audience knows that Juliet has taken a potion to merely appear dead, while Romeo only sees her dead body and proceeds to kill himself.
Cosmic irony would only be used for dramatic effect in real life, but it basically blames the gods or fate for having a hand in our struggles. For a fictional example, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort’s motivation throughout all the books is to kill Harry and in the end, that’s what destroys him.
The juxtaposition between a historical event and what has happened since to contradict it is historical irony. Leading up to its departure in 1912, the Titanic was declared unsinkable – and then it sunk on its maiden voyage.
Based on the Socratic teaching method, Socratic irony is feigning ignorance in order to get a certain reaction or answer out of someone. So when your professor asks you to read the material and then you come in the next day and they say “I don’t know the answer” as they sit back and ask you question after question and you end up teaching yourself – you’ve just become the victim of Socratic irony.
Check out more examples of irony at Huffington Post.