Difference Between Irony and Coincidence

Irony vs Coincidence

Irony is one concept in English language that is often confused by people and used wrongly when there is a coincidence taking place. When people are surprised by an event or a happening and want to express their bewilderment, they make use of the word ironical when they should really be making use of the word coincidence. This article attempts to enable readers to differentiate between irony and coincidence so as to make correct use of the either concepts.


When someone says something that is the exact opposite of what he intends to say, it is termed ironic. When words suggest something that is totally opposite of the literal meaning, it is verbal irony. Another instance of verbal irony is when a speaker says something but means something else which is also called sarcasm. Apart from verbal irony, there are also situational and dramatic ironies.

When the result is totally opposite to what was being expected, making a mockery of the expectations, the situation or series of events, whether comic or tragic is termed as ironic. For example, if an asthmatic person is run over by a truck, carrying inhalers for asthma patients, while he was crossing the road to buy an inhaler, it is certainly tragic and also ironical.


A coincidence is an event or a series of events that occur or take place by chance. Even if it appears to be an extraordinary occurrence, it does not qualify as ironic and remains a coincidence. For example, there are strange coincidences in the lives of two American President Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy. While Lincoln got elected to Congress in 1846, Kennedy got elected in 1946. Lincoln became the President in 1860, Kennedy in 1960. Both were assassinated, and both were shot in their heads. Lincoln had a secretary with the last name as Kennedy while Kennedy had a secretary with the last name as Lincoln.

These events suggest that there have been strong coincidences in the lives of the two Presidents. There were many more events same or similar in their lives that may surprise many people, but this is not ironical but pure coincidence.

A woman moving from NY to California meeting a man and falling in love with him who also has moved to California from NY is a pure coincidence. If someone is fearful of rains spoiling his ceremony and arranges his marriage inside a hall where sprinklers drench guests when they go off suddenly, it is termed as a coincidence or bad luck and not an irony.

What is the difference between Irony and Coincidence?

• If someone misses his flight and the flight gets crashed, it is a coincidence.

• If a beggar places all his savings on a bet and wins despite it being highly improbable, it is still a coincidence but, if someone places another person’s money in a lottery hoping him to lose, but he wins, it is an irony.

• Strange happenings or events that are least expected can be termed as coincidences but, when the exact opposite of what was being expected occurs or takes place, it is termed as ironical.