Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.

A common feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm—"in satire, irony is militant"—but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. This "militant" irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.

Satire is nowadays found in many artistic forms of expression, including literature, plays, commentary, and media such as lyrics.

The word satire comes from the Latin word satur and the subsequent phrase lanx satura. Satur meant "full," but the juxtaposition with lanx shifted the meaning to "miscellany or medley": the expression lanx satura literally means "a full dish of various kinds of fruits."

The word satura as used by Quintilian, however, was used to denote only Roman verse satire, a strict genre that imposed hexameter form, a narrower genre than what would be later intended as satire. Quintilian famously said that satura, that is a satire in hexameter verses, was a literary genre of wholly Roman origin (satura tota nostra est). He was aware of and commented on Greek satire, but at the time did not label it as such, although today the origin of satire is considered to be Aristophanes' Old Comedy. The first critic to use satire in the modern broader sense was Apuleius.

The derivation of satire from satura properly has nothing to do with the Greek mythological figure satyr. To Quintilian, the satire was a strict literary form, but the term soon escaped from the original narrow definition. Robert Elliott writes:

As soon as a noun enters the domain of metaphor, as one modern scholar has pointed out, it clamours for extension; and satura (which had had no verbal, adverbial, or adjectival forms) was immediately broadened by appropriation from the Greek word for “satyr” (satyros) and its derivatives. The odd result is that the English “satire” comes from the Latin satura; but “satirize,” “satiric,” etc., are of Greek origin. By about the 4th century AD the writer of satires came to be known as satyricus; St. Jerome, for example, was called by one of his enemies 'a satirist in prose' ('satyricus scriptor in prosa'). Subsequent orthographic modifications obscured the Latin origin of the word satire: satura becomes satyra, and in England, by the 16th century, it was written 'satyre.'

Read more about Satire:  Satire and Humour, Social and Psychological Functions, Classifications of Satire, Techniques, Censorship and Criticism of Satire, Satirical Prophecy

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Famous quotes containing the word satire:

    The satirist who writes nothing but satire should write but little—or it will seem that his satire springs rather from his own caustic nature than from the sins of the world in which he lives.
    Anthony Trollope (1815–1882)

    Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
    George Gordon Noel Byron (1788–1824)

    I’ll publish, right or wrong:
    Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
    George Gordon Noel Byron (1788–1824)