Although the word irony is often used very broadly in common speech ("He expected to make a whole load of money, but ironically he lost it all"), it's best to use it precisely in English papers.

Even when used precisely, it can have a number of meanings, but they all share something: there is a gap between what is said and what is in fact true. But the gap has to be significant: it can't be merely a factual error, nor even a lie; the irony depends on the audience's recognition of the gap.

Examples of some of the kinds of irony might make things clearer.

See also comedy and satire.

From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
Three question marks mean I have to write more on the subject. Bear with me.