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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 is used in poems to create emphasis on a situation. 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 usage 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, lacklustre, prosaic, dull and bathos (the 'letdown' after a hyperbole in a phrase).

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.

Understanding hyperboles and their use in context can further one's ability to understand the messages being sent from the speaker. It has been established that use of hyperboles relays emotions. They can be used in a form of humour, 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" (PDF). Scholar.havard.edu. Harvard. 

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