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Difference Between Irony and Paradox

ironyIrony vs Paradox

Sometimes words are bandied around in casual conversation until they lose their precise meaning. This happens more often if the original conception of the words is esoteric. Once imprecise notions begin to circulate in popular culture it is extraordinarily difficult to restore these concepts to their original sophistication. Such is the case with irony and paradox.

Actual Definitions of Irony and Paradox
Irony ‘“ refers to real or literary situations or conversations where the evident meaning of a statement or action is incongruous with its intended meaning.
Paradox ‘“ refers to a statement that defies intuition as it leads to seemingly irreconcilable contradictions.

Distortion of Irony and Paradox by Popular Usage
Irony ‘“ is probably a term that you first learned in English class, perhaps with a definition similar to the one written above. However, irony leaped into the spotlight of popular culture with Alanis Morisette’s song ‘Ironic.’ This song sometimes employed situational irony, but often just referred to unfortunate events such as a man who is afraid to fly and when he finally gets on a plane it crashes.
Paradox ‘“ had its heyday when Gilbert and Sullivan wrote ‘A Most Ingenious Paradox’ into their comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Their paradox is not a contradiction at all, but rather the unusual occurrence of a birth on the 29th of February that makes a man 21 years old, but with only five birthdays to his credit.

Different Types of Irony and Paradoxes
Irony ‘“ there are three main types of irony: verbal, literary, and situational.
Verbal ‘“ is perhaps the easiest of the three to recognize. It occurs when a speaker says one thing that means another or refers to a literal meaning that actually has a deeper meaning that is incongruous with the surface.
Literary ‘“ takes place when the reader knows more about the situation than the characters and we watch them blunder into traps created by their own ignorance.
Situational ‘“ happens when you do one action with a specific intent but the actual outcome is opposite of your original intent.

Paradox ‘“ are concretely found in logical paradoxes and amorphously found in moral paradoxes.
Logical ‘“ self-referencing statements such as the famous ‘All nabobs are liars’ create a paradox within the statement itself. This can be extended to circular logic. Paradoxes often occur in science until all the variables of a situation are known. Currently the famous paradox involving Schrödinger’s cat is unsolved.
Moral ‘“ happens when someone feels that no matter what their actions, there will be the same undesirable outcome. This is not a true paradox, but has come into popular usage.

1. Paradox and irony are esoteric terms whose meaning has been distorted by popular culture.
2. Irony deals with incongruities between what is topically perceived and its underlying cause whereas paradoxes are not only incongruous but outright contradictions.
3. Irony touches all facets of our life: in speech, literature, and everyday situations while true paradoxes are confined to the realm of science and math.

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  1. Very helpful, thank you.

    However, I’d like to make one addition to your final statement. You say, “true paradoxes are confined to the realm of science and math.” It should read, “true paradoxes are confined to the realm of science, math, and religion/faith.” E.g., the Christian claim that Jesus of Nazareth is at one and the same time fully God and fully man is the paradox of paradoxes, which, without rejecting the historical evidence, cannot be done away with by classifying it as a mere contradiction.

    True, those outside Christian circles would indeed be likely to reject the evidence; nevertheless, within the faith, this example and others are specimens of true paradox.

    • Paradoxes, that come in the form of cognitive tensions (for managers), also exist in organizations such as when managers must do two seemingly opposite (or quite different) things at the same time. Scores of these tensions have been documented in the management and organizational theory literature. The leadership challenge is to find sets of organizational behaviors that achieve both poles of the tension at the same time. Here are a few examples:

      Depending on the market situation, many organizations find that they must exploit efficiencies at the same time as explore new ideas. These two emphases require quite different kinds of thinking and organizational decisions.

      Serving the needs of the individual employee (or volunteer) while at the same time serving the needs of the organization.

      Preserving and strengthening the organizational culture at the same time as changing the organizational culture.

      Top-down vision vs. Bottom-up participation in realizing the vision.
      Achieving economic goals vs. Achieving other social goals.
      Caring for your own needs vs. Caring for the needs of others.
      Long-run focus vs. Short-run focus.
      Operational thinking vs. Strategic thinking.

      As noted by someone else here, scores of theological paradoxes exist in the Christian religion. Paradoxes exist in ethics also.

    • Please use simple understandable english with example

  2. Words too deep, bruh. Words too deep.

  3. It would be nice if you’d illustrate your definitions with examples…

  4. Please be wise for more underdstanding

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