What Is Satire? (with Examples)

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Satire

Satire is the use of comedy, sarcasm, irony, or exaggeration to expose the flaws or vices of individuals, institutions, or groups (including their ideas, claims, and proposals).

Satire is most commonly used in the context of topical issues, particularly in the political arena.

satire meaning

Examples of Satire

Here are some examples of satire:
  • If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.
  • (This uses sarcasm to undermine democracy.)
  • Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.
  • (This uses exaggeration to highlight the vices of politicians.)
  • When I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President. Now I'm beginning to believe it.
  • (This uses comedy to allude that the current President has no talent.)
  • (This button uses irony to attack the idea of censorship.)

More Examples of Satire

Here are some more examples of satire:


The slider shows some great examples of satire by famous cartoonists. By their nature, some of the cartoons attack politicians. Here at Grammar Monster, we are apolitical!

Why Should I Care about Satire?

This quotation captures how satire works.
  • "When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth." (Playwright George Bernard Shaw)
Here is a good reason to care about satire.

Using satire is an effective way to undermine your target.

When people laugh at a satirical joke, they are, in effect, agreeing with the underpinning observation being presented by the satirist. Presenting an attacking observation in satire is effective because it allows the audience members to reach their own conclusion. By laughing, they are recognizing the absurdity of the reality being described.

Look at these two statements:
  • I am a brilliant swimmer.
  • (Said by John, this sentence is not convincing. It also makes you dislike John and, inwardly at least, challenge the claim.)
  • John is a brilliant swimmer.
  • (Said by someone who knows John, this sentence is far more convincing.)
Neither of these is an example of satire, but they are included here to highlight that a message delivered through an impartial third party is more believable. This is how satire works. A direct rant about the flaws or vices of a particular politician looks like personal opinion or personally motivated. However, a satirical comment about the same politician comes across like it was delivered by a third party. If the satire is recognized by the audience as funny or clever, then the underpinning observation must be accurate. There's a truth to satire.

What Is Satire For?

Here is a great explanation of what satire is for:
What Is Satire For?

Satiric comedy ridicules political policies or philosophical doctrines, or else attacks deviations from the social order by making ridiculous the violators of its standards of morals or manners.

Satire can be described as the literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking toward it attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation. It differs from the comic in that comedy evokes laughter mainly as an end in itself, while satire derides; that is, it uses laughter as a weapon, and against a butt that exists outside the work itself. That butt may be an individual (in "personal satire"), or a type of person, a class, an institution, a nation, or even...the entire human race.

The role of satire is to ridicule or criticize those vices in the society, which the writer considers a threat to civilization. The writer considers it his obligation to expose these vices for the betterment of humanity. Therefore, the function of satire is not to make others laugh at persons or ideas they make fun of. It intends to warn the public and to change their opinions about the prevailing corruption/conditions in society.

"A Glossary of Literary Terms" by M.H. Abrams and Geoffrey Harpham (ISBN 978-1413033908)

See Also

What is irony? What is hyperbole? What is figurative language? What is an idiom? What is a euphemism?