Hyperbole is an exaggeration of speech to create emphasis or effect. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration in speech, in order to create a strong impression, but it is not meant to be taken literally.
The word “hyperbole” is actually composed of two root words: “hyper” which means “over,” and “bole” which means “to throw.” Hyperbole means literally: the overstating of a point. This is where we get the word ‘hype’ from!
How is hyperbole used?
Hyperbole is often used in poetry, and it is also used a lot in casual speech. Many comedy writers use hyperbole, and you will also notice that copywriters employ hyperbole to make a strong, memorable and visually powerful point in advertising copy.
An example of hyperbole is:
“The bag weighed a ton.”
Hyperbole makes the point that the bag was very heavy, though it probably does not weigh a ton.
“I could eat a horse.”
Er, no but we now know that you are very, very hungry!
You will notice a lot of stand-up comedians and comedy, in general, use hyperbole to get a laugh.
Here is an example of hyperbole for comedic effect:
“I was shown into a room. A red room. Red wallpaper, red curtains, red carpet. They said it was a sitting-room, but I don’t know why they’d decided to confine its purpose just to sitting. Obviously, sitting was one of the things you could do in a room this size; but you could also stage operas, hold cycling races, and have an absolutely cracking game of frisbee, all at the same time, without having to move any of the furniture. It could rain in a room this big.”
― Hugh Laurie, The Gun Seller
As you read this list we offer up to show common examples of hyperbole, you will recognize just how much you use it in you day to day speech. Here are some familiar statements of hyperbole:
Charlie gazed hopelessly at the endless pile of bills stretching across the counter.
That is the easiest question in the world.
Nothing can bother him.
I can smell pizza from a mile away.
My dad knows everything about cars.
Jane is the fastest thing on two legs.
Competing is the only thing that ever mattered to him.
Nothing can stop these guys.
My mom is going to kill me.
Everyone knows that.
There are many examples of hyperbole in advertising:
Citi – Citi never sleeps.
Folgers Coffee – The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.
Altoids – Mints so strong they come in a metal box.
As we have seen from the definition and the examples of hyperbole, it can be used to great effect in language or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally. It makes a simple point more dramatic and overall it enhances your expressive powers in English.