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"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.
A work of literature that mocks social conventions, another work of art, or anything its author thinks ridiculous. Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift, is a satire of eighteenth-century British society.