- satire (n.)
- late 14c., "work intended to ridicule vice or folly," from Latin satira "satire, poetic medley," earlier satura, in lanx satura "mixed dish, dish filled with various kinds of fruit," literally "full dish," from fem. of satur "sated" (see saturate). First applied in literary sense to a collection of poems on a variety of subjects by Ennius. In classical Latin, a poem which assailed the prevailing vices, one after another. Altered in Latin by influence of Greek satyr, on mistaken notion that the form is related to the Greek satyr drama (see satyr).
Satire, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are 'endowed by their Creator' with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a sour-spirited knave, and his every victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent. [Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary," 1911]
For nuances of usage, see humor (n.).
Proper satire is distinguished, by the generality of the reflections, from a lampoon which is aimed against a particular person, but they are too frequently confounded. [Johnson]
[I]n whatever department of human expression, wherever there is objective truth there is satire [Wyndham Lewis, "Rude Assignment," 1950]