Learn English – “Ironic” vs “ironical”


I just read something where a phrase was described as ironical. To me the word ironical jars terribly. It just doesn't sound right at all. I would have said ironic.

Is ironical a feature of American English, or am I just missing something? Where would you use it over ironic?

Best Answer

The Corpus of Contemporary American English shows 4253 occurrences of “ironic” and 134 occurrences of “ironical”, that is 32 to 1. The British National Corpus shows 703 and 88, respectively, that is 8 to 1. These results support the feeling that “ironical” is less common than “ironic,” but they do not suggest that the word “ironical” is a feature of American English.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) does not state any regional preference of the word “ironic” or “ironical” (the links require subscription). Interestingly, the definition of “ironic” in the OED is just:

Pertaining to irony; uttering or given to irony; of the nature of or containing irony; = IRONICAL.

and detailed definitions are given for “ironical.”