Definition of satire in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/


1The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Example sentences
  • Some pointed out the film's emotional power, others its use of irony and satire to criticize fascism.
  • Tan's mild political satire maintains a wry humour that complements the general comic tone.
  • Through humour, satire, and a range of experiments with language, the collection offers an oblique commentary on Caribbean society.
1.1A play, novel, film, or other work that uses satire: a stinging satire on American politics
More example sentences
  • The film is an incisive satire on religion and British society, with the Church of England hierarchy particularly coming in for a skewering.
  • Although set in the future, Owen's play is a satire on our preoccupation with surfaces.
  • The play is to be perceived as a satire on big business, which these piddling rogues try to emulate and, in their puny way, supposedly mirror.
1.2A genre of literature characterized by the use of satire.
Example sentences
  • He was a pioneer in various genres including satire, literary criticism, and drama.
  • In English literature, satire may be held to have begun with Chaucer, who was followed by many 15th-cent. writers, including Dunbar.
  • Like both satire and the sentimental, the uncanny as a literary category has been the subject of significant theoretical work.
1.3(In Latin literature) a literary miscellany, especially a poem ridiculing prevalent vices or follies.
Example sentences
  • My evidence for both of these assertions is to be found in a particular Horatian poem: number five in the first book of Horace's satires, commonly referred to as ‘A Journey to Brundisium.’
  • Horace's satire and Jonson's epigram have proven similarly resistant to efforts at critical appreciation.
  • For many readers, this moment of unexpected sexual explicitness drives the general grittiness of Horace's satire beyond the pale of propriety.


Early 16th century: from French, or from Latin satira, later form of satura 'poetic medley'.

  • saturnine from Late Middle English:

    In medieval astrology the planet Saturn represented lead, and those born under its influence could expect to be gloomy, sluggish, and cold. Belief in planetary influence may no longer be scientific, but the description saturnine lives on. The planet takes its name from the Roman god Saturn, the equivalent of Greek Cronus or Kronos, who had been the supreme god until Zeus dethroned him. Saturday (Old English) was ‘the day of Saturn’ in Roman times. Satire (early 16th century) has no connection with Saturn, nor with satyrs. It comes from Latin satura ‘poetic medley’ later used in the modern sense, while where the Greeks got the term for the goatish satyrs (Late Middle English) is not known. See also jovial

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sat·ire

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