Figure Name sarcasm
Source Bede 616; Susenbrotus (1540) 15-16 ("sarcasmus"); Sherry (1550) 46 ("sarcasmus," "amara irrisio"); Peacham (1577) D3v; Putt. (1589) 200 ("sarcasmus," "the bitter taunt"); Day 1599 80 ("sarcasmus"); Silva Rhetoricae (; JG Smith (1665) ("sarcasmus"); Gibbons (1767) 77 ("sarcasm"); Holmes (1806) ("sarcasmus"); De Mille (1882); Waddy (1889); Norwood (1742) ("sarcasmus"); Kellog (1880) ("sarcasm")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms sarcasmus, amara irrisio, the bitter taunt
Etymology from Gk. sarcazein, "to tear flesh, to speak bitterly"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Use of mockery, verbal taunts, or bitter irony. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A biting scoffe or taunt; near an Irony, but somewhat more bitter.; Sarcasmus, irrisio quaedam amarulenta, a biting scoff or taunt; derived from Sarkazo, carnes detraho, to draw away the flesh. (Note in marg: Quod in dentes nudan ur carne.) A Sarcasme is a bitter kinde of derision, most frequently used of an enemy; it is near an Irony, but somewhat more bitter. (JG Smith)

3. " Irony in its superlative keenness and asperity." (Gibbons)

4. Sarcasmus with a bitter jeer doth kill, And ev'ry word with strongest venom fill. (Holmes)

5. 125. SARCASM.
Sarcasm is irony with vituperation directed general against personal opponents. (De Mille)

5. 458. SARCASM.
Sarcasm may be defined as vituperation softened and expressed by means of irony and innuendo:
"I ask this House, Is there no control to its authority? I hope I shall offend no man when I intimate that two limits exist-nature and the Constitution. Should this House undertake to declare that this atmosphere should no longer surround us, that water should cease to flow, that gravity should not hereafter operate,...I think I may venture to affirm that, such a law to the contrary notwithstanding, the air would continue to circulate, the Mississippi, the Hudson, and the Potomac would hurl their floods to the ocean." -JOSIAH QUINCEY. (De Mille)

5. 550. SARCASM.
Sarcasm is a powerful weapon in the hands of some orators, and sometimes this mode of attack is more dreaded than any other. (De Mille)

6. Sarcasm is used only to scourge the follies and vices of men. It is keen and reproachful, and may be witty. The etymology of the word, implying to tear flesh like dogs, gives us some idea of its character. (Waddy)

7. When a dying or dead Person is insulted with Scoffs and ironical Tartness 'tis usually call'd a Sarcasm, which proceeds from Heat of Blood, Eagerness of Resentment, and that Arrogance and Pride which possesses the Heart of Man upon Victory and Success. Custom has prevail'd, that any keen Saying, which has the true Point of Satyr, and cuts deep, is call'd a Sarcasm. (Blackwall)

8. SARCASMUS. Sarcasmus. A most severe way of mockery and derision, not unlike an Irony. Unless that it is commonly malicious, or more scoffing in its kind. (Norwood, 135-136)

9. SARCASM is a species of wit used only to scourge the foibles and follies and vices of men. We call a sentence or a group of sentences into which this quality enters a sarcasm. The etymology of the word implies that a sarcastic expression tears away a portion of the flesh. (Kellog, 162)


1. If you be the son of God, descend from the cross —Matt. 27 (Silva Rhetoricae)

1. In the following passage Cleopatra taunts her lover Antony when a messenger comes from Rome with possible news from his wife or orders from Caesar:
Nay, hear them [the messages], Antony.
Fulvia perchance is angry; or who knows
If the scarce-bearded Caesar have not sent
His pow'rful mandate to you: "Do this, or this;
Take in that kingdom, and enfranchise that;
Perform't, or else we damn thee."
—Antony and Cleopatra 1.1.19-24 (Silva Rhetoricae)

3. "Thus Pyrrhus the son of Achilles, when Priam reproached him with cruelty…: 'Thou then shalt bear the tidings, and shalt go / A speedy courier to the shades below; / There tell Achilles of my barb'rous deeds, / And what a wretch his noble sire succeeds.'" (Gibbons)

2. The Pope in this life sells heaven; hell therefore he reserveth to himself in the life to come. (JG Smith)

4. Now, Cyrus, glut yourself with Blood. (Holmes)

6. As an example: Ward, a flippant Parliamentary orator, who used to write out and commit to memory bombastic speeches, having severely criticised Roger's poem entitled "Itayl," the poet took his revenge in these lines:
Ward has no heart, they say; but I deny it:
He has a heart and gets his speeches by it. - Rogers. (Waddy)

7. Had Cain been Scot, God wou'd have chang'd his Doom,
Not banish'd him, but have confin'd him home. (Blackwall)

8. Psal. 103. 3. They that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us, required of us mirth; saying, sing us one of the songs of Sion. This must be spoken not without contempt and scorn, and derision to them; to desire at a time so very unseasonable, when they were slaves and captives, mourning under great oppressions, to commemorate their former days of joy and liberty; such a request must needs be highly provoking, and give them still but a fresher sense of the present miseries; especially considering the persons who importune them to be joyful and pleasant; for they were the lords and masters over them; and therefore they tell them their petition was then extremely improper, and most disagreeable; how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? (Norwood, 136)

Kind Of Opposition
Part Of irony
Related Figures irony, mycterismus, asteismus
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes Added to "Part of" Irony. -Nike
Reviewed No