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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɜrbəli/[1], from ancient Greek ὑπερβολή 'exaggeration') is a rhetorical device in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

Hyperbole is used to create emphasis. It is a literary device often used in poetry, and is frequently encountered in casual speech. It is also a visual technique in which a deliberate exaggeration of a particular part of an image is employed, such as the exaggeration of a person's facial feature in a political cartoon.

In rhetoric, some opposites of hyperbole are meiosis, litotes, understatement, and bathos (the 'let down' after a hyperbole in a phrase).



Borrowed from the Greek ὑπερβολή, literally 'overshooting' or 'excess', but used in the sense of 'exaggeration' by Isocrates and Aristotle. The word hyperbola comes from the same Greek word, but was borrowed via Latin.[2]


Some examples of use of hyperbole include:

  • These books weigh a ton. (These books are heavy.)
  • I could sleep for a year. (I could sleep for a long time.)
  • The path went on forever. (The path was very long.)
  • I'm doing a million things right now. (I'm busy.)
  • I could eat a horse. (I'm hungry.)
  • I waited centuries for you. (I waited a long time for you.)
  • It took forever to get here. (It took a long time to get here.)
  • She ran at the "speed of light". (she ran fast.)
  • The homework was a "mission to complete". (the homework was hard.)


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Simple English

Exaggeration means the describing of something and making it more than it really is. The verb is to exaggerate.

An example of exaggeration would be: “I was walking along when suddenly this enormous dog walked along. It was as big as an elephant”. The dog may have been big, but it was certainly not as big as that. Another example of exaggeration would be: “I caught a fish as big as my house.”

Overstatement is another word that means almost the same thing. The opposite of overstatement is understatement.

A hyperbole (IPA:[haı'pɝ.bə.li]) is a type of exaggeration that is used in literature. It is a figure of speech. The opposite of hyperbole is meiosis, which is an understatement.

People exaggerate things because they have strong feelings about something. People may exaggerate to make people listen to what they say. They may do it to emphasize something. They may also exaggerate just to sound funny:

  • ”I’ve heard that a million times”
  • ”You’ve got a head the size of a pin”.

People may understate because they are being modest:

  • “Thank you, yes, I suppose I may have helped a little” (in a situation where the person actually helped a lot).

In modern slang, the word “hype” is sometimes used about something that is getting more publicity than it really deserves. The word hype comes from the word “hyperbole”.

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