Hyperbole: Definition, Functions and Great Hyperbole Examples

Last Updated on November 3, 2023

When speaking or writing in English, you are sure to come across the use of hyperbole, but what exactly is this? In this article, we are going to look at what hyperbole is and how it is used in both speech and in writing. We will take a look at some examples in order to further see how it can be applied to the language.

Commonly encountered in literature, poetry, and everyday speech, hyperboles are deliberate and easily identifiable overstatements that serve to make a point more vivid or memorable. They are not meant to be taken literally, but rather to create an effect on the audience or engage the reader’s imagination.

What Is A Hyperbole?

Hyperbole Definition

In short, hyperbole is a statement that has been exaggerated. It is used to overstate a situation and is not intended to be taken literally. Hyperbole may be used in a figurative language to overexpress what someone is saying, in such an example as ‘I almost died from laughter.’ The speaker did not literally almost die but using this hyperbole they are expressing that they laughed a great deal.

Hyperbole can also be used as a rhetoric device, in this type of use you might see a phrase such as ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ In this example, the speaker is exaggerating how fearful people should be or are.

Hyperbole is used to overemphasize a statement or situation in order to give a more dramatic effect on the listener or reader.

In summary, hyperbole is a rhetorical device or figure of speech characterized by the use of exaggeration to emphasize a point or create a strong impression. Its primary purpose is to evoke strong feelings or reactions in the audience, often by making things sound much bigger, better, smaller, worse, or more unusual than they actually are. It can be used both in poetry and oratory.

Hyperbole Origin

The term “hyperbole” has its origins in the Greek language, where it was derived from the words “hyper-“, meaning beyond or over, and “bolē,” which means a throw or cast. The combination of these words, “hyper” and “bolē,” essentially indicates an exaggeration or overstatement in rhetoric.

This rhetorical device has been in use since ancient Greek literature and was a common feature in works by prominent Greek writers and philosophers. Despite its long history, hyperbole remains a popular tool in modern-day communication, employed across various forms of media, including literature, advertising, and everyday conversations.

In summary, hyperbole serves as an effective means of emphasizing a point or eliciting strong emotions in the audience. Its roots in the Greek language and its continual presence in the world of rhetoric makes it an enduring and versatile figure of speech.

Types of Hyperbole

Positive Hyperbole

Positive hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to emphasize a positive aspect or feature of a person or situation. This type of hyperbole highlights the impressive qualities or characteristics, and often, it is used to make something appear even more exceptional. For example:

  • She’s as fast as lightning.
  • The cake was so delicious, it tasted like heaven on earth.

Using positive hyperbole can help create vivid imagery or add emphasis to a point in a lively and engaging way.

Negative Hyperbole

Negative hyperbole, conversely, is the use of exaggeration to emphasize a negative aspect or feature of a person or situation. This exaggeration can have the effect of making something seem worse or more intense, and is often used to add drama to a situation. Examples include:

  • He’s as slow as a tortoise.
  • The test was so hard, it felt like climbing Mount Everest.

By utilizing negative hyperbole, the reader or listener’s attention is drawn to the undesirable traits or qualities, often for dramatic or comedic effect.

Hype

Hype is a type of hyperbole that is typically used to promote a product, event, or person. It often involves excessive and unrealistic claims, with the intent to generate excitement and enthusiasm. Hype can be seen in advertising, entertainment, and marketing.

Understatement

Understatement is the opposite of hyperbole. It involves presenting something as less important, significant, or serious than it actually is. A form of understatement is litotes, which uses double negatives to convey a positive meaning. For example:

  • That’s not a bad idea! (meaning: it’s a good idea)
  • She isn’t the friendliest person I’ve met. (meaning: she’s unfriendly)

Understatements can be used to convey modesty, irony, or sarcasm.

Meiosis

Meiosis, also known as belittlement or diminishment, is a figure of speech that intentionally understates something to make it seem less important or less significant. It is often used humorously or to express modesty. An example:

  • “I’m just a bit tired,” he said after running a marathon.

In this example, the speaker downplays their exhaustion to create a humorous effect.

In conclusion, the various types of hyperbole and their related figures of speech serve various purposes in language, from amplifying the impact of a statement to adding drama or humor to a situation. Writers and speakers must use them skillfully and accurately to convey their intended meaning effectively.

Forms of Hyperbole

In Literature and Writing

Hyperbole is a common figure of speech used in literature and writing to create emphasis and evoke strong emotions. As a literary device, writers employ hyperbole for various purposes, including creating vivid images, producing a dramatic effect, or emphasizing a point. In drama, hyperbole can enliven dialogues and generate humor, while in poetry, it can intensify feelings and expressions. Examples of hyperbole in literature are found in works by authors such as Mark Twain and Shakespeare.

In Advertising and Marketing

In the realm of advertising and marketing, hyperbole is frequently utilized to capture attention and persuade consumers. Advertisers often use exaggerated claims to make products or services appear more desirable, promising exceptional results or outstanding qualities. For instance, ad campaigns might employ phrases like “the ultimate experience” or “earth-shattering taste.” While these statements are not meant to be taken literally, they serve as eye-catching slogans that convey a sense of excitement and prestige.

In Everyday Conversation

Hyperbole is also prevalent in everyday language and conversation. People often use over-exaggerations to emphasize their points or exaggerate emotions in a lighthearted manner. Common hyperbolic expressions include phrases like “I’m starving,” “this bag weighs a ton,” or “I’m so tired I could sleep for a year.” Although these statements are not factually accurate, they effectively convey the speaker’s feelings or experiences with added emphasis.

In Political Communication

Political discourse frequently employs hyperbole as a rhetorical tool to persuade, manipulate, or provoke. Politicians and political commentators might use exaggerated language to emphasize particular issues or make dramatic contrasts between policy positions. Examples of political hyperbole include statements like “this policy will ruin the economy” or “our opponents want to destroy our way of life.” The use of hyperbole in political communication can be strategic, playing on emotions and grabbing headlines, but may also contribute to increased polarization and cynicism in public discourse.

Hyperbole Examples

Hyperbole Examples in Literature

Hyperbole is a common literary device used in various forms of creative writing to emphasize certain elements, emotions, and situations. Here are some notable examples:

  • In Homer’s “Iliad”, hyperbole is used to describe the protagonist’s horses: “His horses are the finest and strongest that I have ever seen, they are whiter than snow and fleeter than any wind that blows.”
  • Kurt Vonnegut frequently used hyperbole in his novels, such as “Slaughterhouse Five”, to create both dramatic and comedic effects.
  • Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” contains hyperbole to emphasize characters’ reactions: “I was expecting the sheriff with a search warrant for concealed valuables any minute.”
  • William Shakespeare often incorporated hyperbole in his plays, like the famous line from “Romeo and Juliet”: “Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate! O any thing, of nothing first create!”

Hyperbole Examples in Movies

Hyperbole is also present in the film industry, as it can effectively convey extreme emotions and emphasize specific aspects of the characters’ situations. Examples of hyperbole in movies include:

  • In “Forrest Gump”, the protagonist’s mother shares the oft-quoted line, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” features exaggeration to depict the excessive lifestyle of the main character: “I buy cars like most people buy toothpaste.”
  • “The Great Gatsby” uses hyperbolic language to emphasize the extravagant nature of the parties held by the titular character: “On weekends, his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight.”

Hyperbole Examples in Songs

Music also incorporates hyperbole to evoke vivid emotions and paint clear pictures. Here are some examples from popular songs:

  • In Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, the hyperbolic line “I will always love you” is meant to emphasize the depth of her undying love.
  • The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” features imaginative hyperbole, such as “Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.”
  • Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” uses hyperbole to enhance the emotional intensity of the song: “Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.”

Utilizing hyperbole in literature, movies, and songs creates a powerful effect, emphasizing emotions and particular aspects of the story or message. It is an integral tool for creative writing, used skillfully by authors, filmmakers, and songwriters alike.

Examples of Hyperbole in Pop Culture

Movies and Television

Hyperbole often plays a role in movies and television, as characters use exaggerated speech to create humor, express strong emotions, or make a point. For example, in the movie The Sandlot, a character exclaims, “This is the greatest treehouse ever built!” to emphasize the impressive nature of the structure. Similarly, in the film Titanic, characters may use hyperbolic expressions to convey the enormity of the ship and its tragic sinking.

Music and Songs

Hyperbole is also present in many popular songs, as it helps to create vivid images and convey strong emotions. For instance, the lyrics of the song “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls include the exaggerated claim, “It’s raining men! Hallelujah!”, which expresses joy and excitement about an abundance of attractive men. Another example is the song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers, in which the singer claims he would walk 500 miles and then 500 more, just to be with his significant other. This expresses devotion and love through the use of hyperbole.

Internet Memes

Meme Name Description Example
Gillette Slogan A hyperbolic slogan used to sell razors from Gillette “The best a man can get.”

In the digital age, hyperbole thrives in the form of internet memes. These viral images or phrases often use exaggeration for humor, irony, or social commentary. For example, the Gillette slogan, “The best a man can get,” is a hyperbolic claim about the quality of the razor products. This slogan has been memed and shared widely on the internet, with people applying the phrase to unrelated images or situations for a comedic effect.

Hyperbole Examples: Speech vs. Literature

Examples of Hyperbole in Speech

There are many instances in which hyperbole is used in day to day conversation, it is one of the most common forms of figures of speech and you are likely to hear it used regularly. Let’s now take a look at some examples of hyperbole in sentences.

  • I have a hundred and one things to do today.
  • This job is going to take me forever.
  • I am never going to finish this meal.
  • She has been at the shop for an eternity.
  • I am stuck on a level which is impossible.
  • I am never going to get this job done.
  • That man is as old as time.
  • This bag weighs ten tonnes.
  • He has been talking for a week.
  • When I was pregnant, I was as big as a house.
  • He never diets and now he is as heavy as an elephant.
  • I almost died of embarrassment.
  • I laughed so much, I nearly died.
  • I’ve seen this movie a million times.
  • I’m so hungry that I could eat a horse.
  • When I went jogging this morning, I worked so hard, I ran a thousand miles.
  • I have a million problems that I need to solve.
  • The man was as tall as a skyscraper.
  • I haven’t seen my mother in and age and a day.
  • I was dying to see the concert.
  • Last summer was so hot that I was on fire.
  • My husband is a bad driver, he drives everywhere are five hundred miles an hour.
  • My sister has a brain the size of a pea.
  • His heart is as cold as ice.
  • His stare was as hard as a rock.
  • The big cat runs faster than the wind.
  • Today has been the worst day in history.
  • My girlfriend has skin as soft as silk.
  • I should not have done that, my mom is going to kill me.
  • She is thin as a runner bean.
  • I cooked enough food to feed an army.
  • That dress cost me a billion dollars.
  • He had a mile-wide smile.
  • I’m so sad that I am drowning in my sorrows.
  • My aunt is my guardian angel.
  • I have told you no a thousand times before.
  • His new sports car goes faster than the speed of light.
  • He is as old as a dinosaur.
  • I was so shocked that you could have knocked me over with a feather.
  • He has an endless supply of money.

Examples of Hyperbole in Literature

Many times writers will use hyperbole within their work to exaggerate or overstate a situation in order to make it more interesting and gripping to the reader. Let’s take a look at some examples of when hyperbole has been used in written works.

  • We’re so hot, we will melt your popsicle.” This is a line from the song California Girls by Katy Perry.
  • I will fly to the moon and back.” This is an example of hyperbole taken from a song by the band Savage Garden.
  • One winter, since it was so cold, the geese all went backwards and I saw fish flying south.” This example of hyperbole is taken from Babe in the blue ox by Paul Bunyan.
  • My love, I will adore you until Africa and China meet.” This is an example of hyperbole being used in the text As I walked once evening by W H Auden.
  • I was to wait at the train station for ten days-it was an eternity.” In this case, hyperbole can be seen written by Joseph Conrad in The heart of darkness.
  • In the poem Red, red rose written by Robert Burns, the author implies that he will love his partner until the seas dry up with the line “I will love you until the seas are dry.”
  • Please take a seat, because this man has produced nine million awards ceremonies.” This is an example of hyperbole being used in a speech delivered by Dick Clark as he accepted an award.
  • The captain was taking on anyone who could walk.” In this case, we see an example of hyperbole which was taken from a speech written by Larry Rayfield Wright.
  • Her facial skin was a drawn and tight as that of an onion.” We find this example of hyperbole in the book, Parker’s back written by Flannery O’Connor.
  • It was not simply a man which he was holding but rather giant, a huge block of stone.” This is an example of hyperbole taken from a text written by James Ramsey Ulman called Banner in the sky.

Comparison with Other Literary Devices

Metaphors

Metaphors are a type of figurative language in which one thing is compared to another in order to create a more vivid and imaginative image in the reader’s mind. In a metaphor, this comparison is direct and often uses the verb “to be.” For example, one might say “time is a thief” to express how quickly time seems to pass. Both metaphors and hyperboles aim to enhance the reader’s understanding and experience of a concept, but metaphors do so through the use of comparison while hyperboles use exaggeration.

Similes

Similar to metaphors, similes also compare two seemingly unrelated things to create a powerful image or idea. However, similes use the words “like” or “as” to indicate the comparison, making them more explicit than metaphors. An example of a simile would be “she is as strong as an ox.” While similes and hyperboles can both be used to enhance descriptions, similes involve a direct comparison between two things, whereas hyperboles use extreme exaggeration to make a point.

Irony

Irony is another literary device that differs from hyperbole. There are various forms of irony, but they all involve a discrepancy between appearance and reality, or a contrast between what is expected and what actually occurs. For example, verbal irony occurs when a speaker says one thing but means the opposite, often for humorous or sarcastic effect. Hyperbole, on the other hand, does not rely on this type of contrast or discrepancy but rather on the intentional exaggeration of a statement or idea.

In summary, while hyperbole shares some similarities with other literary devices such as metaphors and similes, they each serve unique purposes within the context of writing. Hyperbole uses exaggeration to emphasize a point, while metaphor and simile make comparisons to create vivid imagery for the reader. Irony, with its focus on contrasting appearance and reality, presents yet another approach to enhance the reader’s experience in different ways.

Functions of Hyperbole

Creating Humor

Hyperbole can be an effective tool in creating humor within a piece of writing. By using exaggerated statements, the writer is able to present situations or ideas in a comical and light-hearted manner. This can effectively engage the reader, making the text more enjoyable, relatable, and memorable. For example, a writer may describe a character as being “so hungry, they could eat a horse,” painting an amusing picture in the reader’s mind that brings a smile to their face.

Emphasizing Feelings and Sentiments

A writer can effectively use hyperbole to emphasize the feelings and sentiments in their work. Exaggerated expressions can better convey the intensity of emotions, making the reader truly understand the depth of the character’s feelings. For instance, a protagonist might have a “heart that swelled with so much love, it could burst.” By using hyperbole, the author is able to communicate the overwhelming nature of the character’s emotions in a way that resonates with readers.

Drawing Attention

Hyperbole can be utilized to draw attention to a specific point in a piece of writing. By using an exaggerated statement or image, the writer is able to capture the reader’s attention and emphasize the importance of the subject at hand. This can be particularly useful in persuasive writing, where the aim is to convince readers of a particular perspective. For example, an author might write, “The city was so polluted, the birds coughed instead of singing.” This hyperbolic statement not only illustrates the severity of the pollution problem but also grabs the reader’s attention, driving home the need for action.

Conclusion

Hyperbole is a type of figure of speech that is used to overstate or exaggerate a sentence or situation in order to make it more dramatic. It is regularly used in day to day conversation especially in informal speech. It can also be found many times in written text such as songs, poetry and stories to add an emphasis on something.

Hyperbole Infographic

HyperbolePin

FAQs on Hyperbole

What is hyperbole?

Hyperbole is a figure of speech and literary device that creates a heightened effect through deliberate exaggeration. It is often used to emphasize a point, make a statement more dramatic, or draw attention to an issue by making it seem more significant.

How is hyperbole used in writing?

Writers employ hyperbole in various ways, such as in rhetoric, literature, or everyday speech. This figure of speech is often used to create serious, comic, or ironic effects. For example, in the statement “I’ve told you a million times,” the number “million” is clearly an exaggeration, emphasizing the speaker’s frustration.

Where does the term ‘hyperbole’ come from?

The word “hyperbole” has its origins in the Greek word “huperbole,” meaning “to throw above.” This etymology is fitting, as hyperbole often throws exaggeration above the literal meaning of a statement in order to create emphasis.

What is the difference between hyperbole and understatement?

Hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses extreme exaggeration to make a point, while understatement is its opposite – using modest, restrained language to create a more subtle emphasis. For example, consider these two statements about the weather: “It’s raining cats and dogs” (hyperbole) versus “It’s just a light drizzle” (understatement) when it is pouring heavily.

Can hyperbole be found in everyday speech?

Yes, hyperbole can often be found in casual conversations or everyday speech. People frequently use exaggerated language to emphasize their feelings or emotions. Some common examples include phrases like “I’m starving” when one is simply hungry or “I could sleep for days” when one is just very tired.

Is hyperbole always obvious?

Hyperbole is often very noticeable due to its exaggerated nature. However, in some cases, context and the speaker’s tone can determine whether a statement is taken as hyperbole or understood literally. It is still important for the audience to be familiar with this figure of speech to recognize when it is being used.

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3 thoughts on “Hyperbole: Definition, Functions and Great Hyperbole Examples”

  1. Wow,I love the articulated and eloberated explanation on your perspective idea on the term “Hyperbole“. I really learn much. I am showing my great reward and gratitude by encouraging you guys to try harder on your good works.Thank you all.

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