Irony vs Coincidence – Is There A Difference?

Everyone has heard of irony and coincidence. However, many people don’t realize that they are actually using these terms incorrectly. There’s a big difference between irony and coincidence, but most people use the words interchangeably. In this post, we’ll break down the main differences between irony and coincidence and why it matters

What Is Irony?

At its simplest, the literal meaning of irony is when what actually happens is the exact opposite of what was expected.

  • For example, you grew up hating your father and claimed that you would never work for the family business. However, when you became an adult you couldn’t find a job and had to work for your father.

Takeaway: This is an example of situational irony. Exactly the opposite of what was expected happened.

Irony occurs everywhere around us in our everyday lives. Sometimes we notice…and sometimes we don’t. Most people also do not realize that there are several different types of irony in the English language.

There are four main types of Irony:

  1. Verbal Irony: Verbal irony is when a speaker intentionally says the opposite of what they mean. It’s a form of sarcasm and is used when people want to be witty and humorous. It is verbal irony when the underlying meaning of what you say is opposite of what you mean.
  2. Dramatic Irony: Dramatic irony is a plot device often used in fiction to create suspense or humor. It usually occurs when the audience knows something that the characters do not.
  3. Situational Irony: Situational irony happens when the expected outcome of a situation is the opposite of what actually happens. For example, if you’re expecting a relaxing evening at home but your power ends up going out.
  4. Comic Irony: Comic irony is a form of humor that arises from a discrepancy between what is expected and what actually occurs. It irony can be used to defuse tension or create humor.

What Is Coincidence?

Coincidence is defined as a series of events that seem to be related but are actually unrelated.

In the business world, you will often hear that there is no such thing as coincidence and that everything happens for a reason. However, it’s clear that some events are totally unplanned.

  • For example, You’re out for a walk when you see a $20 bill lying on the ground. You pick it up and put it in your pocket. A few minutes later, you stumble upon a homeless person who is begging for money. You decide to give them the $20 bill that you found.

Takeaway: It is a coincidence that these two events would happen. In this case, it turned out to be a positive coincidence. Not every coincidence needs to involve bad luck.

Main Difference

In the English language, coincidence is the one concept that is most often confused with irony. However, there are some key differences between these two terms.

man comparing irony vs coincidence

1) History

Irony: The history of irony can be traced back to ancient Greece. Sophists used the term “irony” to describe a figure of speech in which the speaker says one thing but means another.

Coincidence: The history of coincidence can be traced back to the medieval Latin period. The Latin word “coincidentia“, meaning to “coincide

2) Meaning

Irony: Situational irony is when the opposite of what was expected happens.

Coincidence: Two events that appear to be related but are not.

3) Types or Variations

Irony: Has four variations: Comic, situational, dramatic, and verbal irony.

Coincidence: No variations.

Irony vs Coincidence – Quiz

Questions:

  1. A fisherman hates to eat fish.
  2. You and your best friend wear the same dress to graduation.
  3. Your mother says she needs $20 to buy her favorite shirt. On the way home from school you find $20 on the side of the road and give it to her.
  4. Your best friend tries to dunk a basketball and falls short. You go over to him and say “you remind me of Michael Jordan”.

Answers:

  1. Irony
  2. Coincidence
  3. Coincidence
  4. Irony

FAQs – Irony vs Coincidence

Q: What is the example of irony?

There are many examples of irony, but one of the most famous is probably the story of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus was warned as a child that he would kill his father and marry his mother, but he disbelieved the prophecy and went on to do both. In this situation, the actual result was the exact opposite of what Oedipus expected.

Q: What is the difference between coincidence and coincident?

A coincidence is a noun that means when two or more things happen at the same time by chance. For example, you and your friend meet at the grocery store and you are both wearing the same shirt. Coincident, on the other hand, is an adjective that describes something that happens at the same time as something else.

Q: How is irony misused?

The irony is most frequently mistaken for a coincidence. People refer to an event as situational irony when in reality it was a coincidence. Irony is a literary device that occurs when there is a discrepancy between expectations and reality.

Q: What are the 4 types of irony?

The four types of irony include dramatic irony (also called tragic irony), verbal irony, situational irony, and comic irony. Although all four types of irony are different, the common theme is the exact opposite things happen in all types.

Q: What’s the difference between irony and serendipity?

Serendipity and irony are two different concepts. Serendipity is a lucky coincidence while irony refers to a contradiction between what actually happens and what was expected to happen. It is ironic when exactly the opposite event happens compared to the normal or expected result.

Q: What is irony often confused with?

Irony is often confused with sarcasm and coincidence. Sarcasm is a form of irony, but not all irony is sarcastic. Coincidence is when two or more events happen at the same time by chance, but are not related.

Q: Can a coincidence be ironic?

Irony and coincidence are similar but different things. A coincidence is a random event, whereas irony typically involves some sort of reversal or unexpected turn. For something to be ironic, there needs to be a discrepancy between the expected outcome and the actual outcome.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know the difference between irony and coincidence, you can be sure to use the right word when describing those strange things that seem to happen to us all the time. When your friends or classmates use these terms wrong…you can correct them. Being aware of these two words will help you accurately describe the events in your life and maybe even make some of them funnier!