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This article is about the term used in rhetoric. For the mathematical term, see Hyperbola.

Hyperbole (/hˈpɜrbəl/ hy-PUR-bə-lee;[1] Greek: ὑπερβολή hyperbolē, "exaggeration") is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.[2][3]

Hyperboles are exaggerations to create emphasis or effect. As a literary device, hyperbole is often used in poetry, and is frequently encountered in casual speech.[4] Many times the usages of hyperbole describes something as better or worse than it really is. [5] An example of hyperbole is: "The bag weighed a ton."[6] Hyperbole makes the point that the bag was very heavy, though it probably does not weigh a ton.[7]

In rhetoric, some opposites of hyperbole are meiosis, litotes, understatement, lackluster, prosaic, dull and bathos (the 'letdown' after a hyperbole in a phrase).

A hyperbole is a form of speech that uses exaggerated statements or claims that should not to be taken literally. Hyperboles are often used in rhetoric, but can also simply be found in every day conversations. Hyperboles offer critical insight into the understandings of one’s theory of knowledge and nature of one’s total being. These were the theories established about hyperboles hundreds of years ago.

When used in a rhetorical form, hyperboles can be an indicator of the speaker’s personality and thought process, depending on how, when, and why they are used in the context. According to “Recovering Hyperbole” by Joshua Ritter, the use of hyperboles in context was used by philosophers to both strengthen their communication, as well as read deeper into the context of others who used hyperboles, whether through text or through speech.

A good way to think of a hyperbole’s usage is to imagine it going through a realm of impossibility to reach possibility. (J. Ritter) As an example we can look at an exaggeration such as, “The class felt like it was six thousand hours long.” In reality, no class is six thousand hours long, but through the context the reader can understand that the speaker is telling them that the class felt extremely long. Through that same example, the theory that a hyperbole is inserting a lie on a set of truths is very easily understandable as well. The six thousand hours exaggeration is a lie that was entered into the context, which was otherwise true.

Another example of a hyperbole language, "There is enough food to feed a whole army." This statement is making a point, that there is a significant amount of food. The statement exaggerates on "whole army", because there is approximately 1.4 million active persons in the army. However, there is enough food to feed the amount of people that is need to be fed.

Understanding hyperbola and their use in context will further your ability to understand the messages being sent from the speaker. It has been established that use of hyperbola relays emotions. They can be used in a form of humor, excitement, distress, and many other emotions, all depending on the context in which the speaker uses it.[8]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hyperbole". Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Hyperbole". Dictionary.com. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Hyperbole". Utk.edu. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Definition of Hyperbole". Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  5. ^ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperbole
  6. ^ Mahony, David (2003). Literacy Tests Year 7. Pascal Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-877-08536-9. 
  7. ^ "Hyperbole". Byu.edu. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Johnson, Christopher. "The Rhetoric of Excess in Baroque Literature and Thought". Scholar.havard.edu. Harvard. 

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