Sarcasm vs. Facetiousness: What’s the Difference

Sarcasm vs. facetiousness – are they interchangeable? Well, sarcasm adds an interesting intonation to your writing, making it seem witty and (hopefully!) hilarious. Of course, just like any other language device, sarcasm is best used in moderation. In everyday speech, it’s best served amongst peers you share a similar role with. However, it won’t be received with much warmth if you use it with parents, elders, or superiors in a professional or academic setting.

Of course, it doesn’t imply that families can’t enjoy some light-hearted humor and a playful atmosphere. Ideally, parents should teach their kids the difference between facetiousness and sarcasm. Both these attitudes are moderate forms of irony by saying one thing but actually meaning something else. In simple terms: referring to the opposite of what you’re actually saying.


Here is an example of facetiousness: you’re sitting down for a terribly difficult exam, and your classmate turns around and says, “Boy! What an easy exam we have today. Piece of cake!” In this example, the classmate is ironic, and obviously has no underlying motive that could hurt others around them.  This, we can say, is facetiousness. Its irony for the sake of humour without a sting.

In fact, the word ‘facetious’ derives from the Latin facetus for ‘witty,’ and can be found in the French language – facetie – to mean ‘joke.’ You can best view the word facetiousness as an irony with a wink.


On the other hand, sarcasm is also irony, but with a slight hint of contempt. If you see facetiousness as irony with a wink, then you could view sarcasm as irony with a tongue sticking out. Yes, just like that emoji you use to represent something funny you may have said.

Sarcasm can most definitely cause a sting in some cases. For example, a child makes a mistake in school, and his classmate says, “Hey Einstein. Good going!” The statement in the example comes with contempt. Consequently, the person hearing it may feel hurt.

Unfortunately, sarcasm has become a common means of interaction in some families. Some family members don’t care about the effect that their sarcastic comments can have on others. This especially applies to parents who keep telling their kids to learn “to take a joke.” In fact, what they’re actually teaching their kids is how to ignore their own feelings or hurt. This, with time, can diminish emotional intelligence.

Which Is Best?

So when it comes to sarcasm vs. facetiousness, perhaps instead of using sarcasm as a means to teach certain valuable life lessons, you can use facetiousness.  Yes, facetiousness can have a very insensitive and inappropriate touch as well, but it’s not as intentional as sarcasm is. If you start incorporating facetiousness in your everyday conversations with children, you must at the same time make sure they understand how to use it, to me sure they don’t hurt anyone, even unintentionally.

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By Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday holds degrees in English education and creative writing. As an educator, Michael specializes in corporate training having worked with IBM, Philip Morris International, and the Danone food company in Paris. He is a published author and is deeply passionate about the written word.

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