What Is Hyperbole?

Definition of "Hyperbole"

Hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration for emphasis or comedy.

Table of Contents

  • Examples of Hyperbole
  • Real-Life Examples of Hyperbole
  • Hyperbole Portrays the Writer's Bias
  • Video Lesson
  • Why Hyperbole Is Important
  • Test Time!
hyperbole examples

Examples of Hyperbole

  • You have lost a ton of weight.
  • I've got a million things to do.
  • Your mum is going to have a fit when she sees that tattoo.
  • I could eat a scabby horse.

Real-Life Examples of Hyperbole

With hyperbole, the literal meaning is not the intended meaning.
  • My mother worked her fingers to the bone trying to provide for me and my brother. (US soccer player Tim Howard)
  • Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. (Actress Marilyn Monroe)
  • You can always count on them to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else. (Winston Churchill)
Hyperbole is classified as figurative language (the use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner). Quite often, it is presented in the form of a simile (which compares one thing with another). For example:
  • Lee's arms were like strands of cotton hanging from his T-shirt.
  • (This is a hyperbolic simile.)
Hyperbole can also be presented in the form of a metaphor (which states one thing is another). For example:
  • His cigar was a smouldering Zeppelin that assured no intrusion into his personal space.
  • (This is a hyperbolic metaphor.)

Hyperbole Portrays the Writer's Bias

A normal simile or metaphor (i.e., a non-hyperbolic one) is useful because it offers an appropriate analogy that helps readers understand the original idea. With a hyperbolic simile or metaphor, the analogy is deliberately inappropriate but the exaggeration tells us the writer's view about the original idea. In the simile example above, we cannot picture how thin Lee's arms were, only that they were too thin in the writer's opinion. In the metaphor example, we cannot picture how big the cigar was, only that it was enormous in the writer's opinion.

Video Lesson

Here is a 4-minute video summarizing this lesson on hyperbole. video lesson

Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer video to text? Here is a list of all our grammar videos.

Why Hyperbole Is Important

Hyperbole can be used to convey a message, opinion, or emotion in an interesting or witty way. Hyperbole is more common in everyday speech and verse (e.g., poetry, songs) than in business prose, but does have some utility in business, particularly in advertising.

If the truth of something is, let's say, 5/10, yet you present it as 10/10 with hyperbole, then it will be difficult for your audience to recover all the way back to 5/10. Therefore, you will have influenced them towards your position.
  • "Probably the best lager in the world." (Carlsberg slogan)
  • (The famous Carlsberg slogan is a good example of hyperbole in advertising. Even if you don't believe the claim, it leaves you with the idea that Carlsberg is at least a contender. Of interest, in its home country of Denmark, the slogan was "probably the best beer in town" because the Danish authorities did not allow hyperbole in advertising.)
Hyperbole is not meant to be taken literally, but it is meant to convey a truth. It's a little like cartooning.
  • Cartooning is the truth of something through exaggeration. (American artist Bill Sienkiewicz)

Key Point

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.