Definition & Examples of Sarcasm

Sarcasm (derives from the Greek sarcazein, literally “bitter utterance”), is an insulting speech; a kind of vituperationOpens in new window softened in the outward expression by the artful use of language and such figures of disguise as, epigramOpens in new window, innuendoOpens in new window, ironyOpens in new window; and embellished with the figures of illustration. The letters of JuniusOpens in new window fit aptly into this description.

Examples of Sarcasm

There is irony amounting to sarcasm in Locke’s remark upon the Aristotelian Logic:

Sarcasm could build its force upon the speaker’s manner, who, in uttering it, is supposed to contract his lips and show his teeth; as might be done in such scenario as to say,

  • “Now, satiate thyself with blood!”
    [this statement was uttered when the head of Cyrus was thrown into a bowl of blood.]

A less biting sarcasm occurs under the figure DiasyrmusOpens in new window; and a sort of sarcasm also occurs under the figure MimesisOpens in new window, of which a striking example is furnished in Shakespeare’sOpens in new window play of Henry the FourthOpens in new window, where Hotspur ridicules a fop. And when it is delivered with a host of civility, as when a person might say “Pardon me for having given you credit for brains,” it goes by the name ‘AsteismusOpens in new window’.

Further Readings:
B. H. Smatr, A manual of rhetoric, with exercises for the improvement of style or diction [...] | Sarcasm (21).Opens in new window
Silver Rhetoricae, Figures | Sarcasmus.Opens in new window