Writing

What Is Hyperbole in Writing (How To Write + Examples)

Posted: January 2, 2023
Word count: 1,261 (5 min)

Hyperboles can be found in everyday conversations, literature, political speech, media world, advertisement, and various content mediums.

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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What is a simple definition of hyperbole?

Hyperbole is a literary device used for exaggeration and emphasis. Oxford Reference defines the word hyperbole as "exaggeration for the sake of emphasis in a figure of speech not meant literally."

Let us learn how to pronounce hyperbole: / hī-ˈpər-bə-(ˌ)lē /

It comes from a Greek word huperbolē.

Although the purpose of hyperbole is to catch the reader's attention through extreme exaggeration, the figurative language should not mislead the reader into thinking the information to be true. The reader should understand that it is just for rhetorical purposes and not literally true.

What is an example of hyperbole?

There are thousands of hyperbole examples. Here is a list of a few.

I am so hungry I could eat a horse.

I have told you like a million times to stop cursing!

This rain has lasted for years now.

I am neck-deep in trouble.

Sasha ate like a hundred shrimps.

Do not breathe the same air as me.

What is hyperbole in literature examples?

Hyperbole in literature adds emphasis to certain points, especially in poetry and dramatic writing. In literature hyperbole acts as a catalyst to certain areas like friendly dialogues and everyday conversation.

Guinness For Strength

"I’ll love you, dear, I’ll l_ove you till China and Africa meet,
And the_ river jumps over the mountain
And the _salmon sing in the street
,
I’ll love you till the_ ocean
Is folded and hung up
to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky."

The above lines are from W. H. Auden's poem 'As I Walked Out One Evening'. The poem uses luscious language to express the intensity of the narrator's love for their beloved. The poem gives hyperbole examples and how they help in expressing amplified feelings in literary contents.

I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing

“...I knew I’d have to let it go, or it would probably run right back up to my head and my poor head would burst like a dropped watermelon, and all the brains and spit and tongue and eyes would roll all over the place.”

“I prayed earnestly that I’d be allowed to sit under the house and have the building collapse on my left jaw.”

These lines are from Maya Angeleou's autobiography I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing.

Babe the Blue Ox

"Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before."

Babe the Blue Ox by Paul Bunyan

The Devil Wears Prada

"I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight."

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Forrest Gump

"The best thing about visiting the President is the food! Now, since it was all free, and I wasn’t hungry but thirsty, I must’ve drank me fifteen Dr. Peppers."

Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis

Living to Tell the Tale

"At that time Bogota was a remote, lugubrious city where an insomniac rain had been falling since the beginning of the 16th century."

Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Modest Proposal

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust."

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Revenge of the Pork Person

"A man can have a belly you could house commercial aircraft in and a grand total of eight greasy strands of hair, which he grows real long and combs across the top of his head so that he looks, when viewed from above, like an egg in the grasp of a giant spider__, plus this man can have B.O. to the point where he interferes with radio transmissions, and he will still be convinced that, in terms of attractiveness, he is borderline Don Johnson."

'Revenge of the Pork Person' by Dave Barry

Romeo and Juliet

"The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars.
As daylight doth a lamp. Her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night."

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Why do writers use hyperbole?

Hyperboles are used everywhere: in everyday speech, literature, politics, advertisement, technical writing, and so on. Hyperbole is one of the easiest to use literary devices. One just needs to over exaggerate to the point of ridicule. The greek word meaning of hyperbole is to overthrow something, or to go beyond.

If you are a freelance writer you can use hyperbole in your content to bring humor if your content is informal or technical, or use hyperbole as an effective tool to connect with your readers. Effective examples of hyperbole in blogwriting would be something like this: The research for this article was like twenty four hours long.

Hyperbole in everyday speech can sound like:

"There's not enough food to satiate my hunger right now."

"I am literally dying of thirst."

"If you are dehydrated, drink tons of water."

"These exams are going to be the death of me."

"Politicians are the worst."

Hyperbole examples in advertisement looks like: "When there is no tomorrow", FedEx. This hyperbole implies FedEx gives very fast delivery, like there is no tomorrow.

Writers use hyperbole for the following reasons:

Emphasize a Point

Suppose I want my readers to understand why character X is being lazy that day. I could describe their last night by saying: X is so dead tired from last night that they could sleep for a whole week. This sentence, rather than saying X is tired from last night and they need sleep.

Intended Effect

Hyperboles should be intended to provide the exaggeration effect. Make sure the audience understands that you are consciously using hyperbolic statements and not meaning them in a literal sense. In that case find out why the figurative language looks like literal language.

Rhetorical Device

Hyperbole is just a literary device like other literary devices in literature. Euphemism, for example softens the blow of a harsh statement to the point of making an understatement.

Humor and Other Intentions

Finally, hyperbole helps the writer to write humorous content. Read any New Yorker humor page and you will find famous examples of hyperbole.

Is hyperbole the same as exaggeration?

No. Although hyperbole and exaggeration both provide heightened effect, hyperbole is a rhetorical device for intensified effect but in case of exaggeration it is meant literally and the listener or reader is misdirected into feeling something other than what is true.

Summary

  • Hyperbole is a literary device that expresses moods, feelings, incidents and events in an overexaggerated manner.
  • Hyperboles can be found in everyday conversations, literature, political speech, media world, advertisement, and various content mediums.
  • Hyperbole can be used to emphasize a point, express humor, or just simply describe an emotion you are feeling.
  • Hyperbole examples can be found in literary satires, ironies, and sarcasms.
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