AskDefine | Define hyperbole

Dictionary Definition

hyperbole n : extravagant exaggeration [syn: exaggeration]

User Contributed Dictionary



From hyperbole < (huperbolē) "excess, exaggeration < (huper) "above" + (ballō) "I throw".


  • /haɪ'pɜ:bəli/


  1. extreme exaggeration or overstatement; especially as a literary or rhetorical device.
  2. deliberate exaggeration
  3. an instance or example of this technique
  4. a hyperbola

Usage notes

  • When used as a literary device, hyperbole is an exaggeration that, while not intended to be taken literally, still describes a situation or image that is at least feasible or possible. Exaggeration that is considered impossible is called adynaton.
    Examples: "I have been waiting for hours for the end of your 'short' coffee break." is a hyperbole while "I have been waiting for ages for the end of your 'short' coffee break." is an adynaton.
  • This distinction is not always observed, even in textbooks.


  • 1602 — William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida i 3
    ...and when he speaks'Tis like a chime a-mending; with terms unsquar'd,Which, from the tongue of roaring Typhon dropp'd,Would seem hyperboles.
  • 1837 — Nathaniel Hawthorne, Legends of the Province House
    The great staircase, however, may be termed, without much hyperbole, a feature of grandeur and magnificence.
  • 1841 — James Fenimore Cooper, The Deerslayer, ch. 28
    "Nay - nay - good Sumach," interrupted Deerslayer, whose love of truth was too indomitable to listen to such hyperbole with patience.
  • 1843 — Thomas Babington Macaulay, The Gates of Somnauth
    The honourable gentleman forces us to hear a good deal of this detestable rhetoric; and then he asks why, if the secretaries of the Nizam and the King of Oude use all these tropes and hyperboles, Lord Ellenborough should not indulge in the same sort of eloquence?
  • c.1910 — Theodore Roosevelt, Productive Scholarship
    Of course the hymn has come to us from somewhere else, but I do not know from where; and the average native of our village firmly believes that it is indigenous to our own soil—which it can not be, unless it deals in hyperbole, for the nearest approach to a river in our neighborhood is the village pond.
  • 2001 - Tom Bentley, Daniel Stedman Jones, The Moral Universe
    The perennial problem, especially for the BBC, has been to reconcile the hyperbole-driven agenda of newspapers with the requirement of balance, which is crucial to the public service remit.


Derived terms

Related terms


Rhetorical device



From hyperbole < (huperbolē) "excess, exaggeration < (huper) "above" + (ballō) "I throw".


  • /ipɛʀbɔl/





From (huperbolē) "excess, exaggeration < (huper) "above" + (ballō) "I throw".


  • /hʏˈpɛːrbɔleː/


italbrac Greek pattern

Extensive Definition

Hyperbole ( hye-PER-buh-lee; "HYE-per-bowl" is a mispronunciation) comes from Greek "υπερβολή"=exaggeration and is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, and 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.
Some examples include: these books weigh a ton. (weigh a great deal) I could sleep for a year. (for a long time)
Antonyms to hyperbole include meiosis, litotes, understatement, and bathos (the 'let down' after a hyperbole in a phrase).
Derived from the Greek (literally 'overshooting' or 'excess'), it is a cognate of hyperbola.
hyperbole in Bulgarian: Хипербола (литература)
hyperbole in Catalan: Hipèrbole
hyperbole in Czech: Hyperbola (literatura)
hyperbole in Welsh: Gormodiaith
hyperbole in German: Hyperbel (Sprache)
hyperbole in Spanish: Hipérbole
hyperbole in Basque: Hiperbole
hyperbole in French: Hyperbole (rhétorique)
hyperbole in Galician: Hipérbole
hyperbole in Croatian: Hiperbola (figura)
hyperbole in Icelandic: Ýkjur
hyperbole in Italian: Iperbole (figura retorica)
hyperbole in Hebrew: הגזמה
hyperbole in Lithuanian: Hiperbolė (menas)
hyperbole in Macedonian: Хипербола (лингвистика)
hyperbole in Dutch: Hyperbool (stijlfiguur)
hyperbole in Norwegian: Hyperbol
hyperbole in Polish: Hiperbola (teoria literatury)
hyperbole in Portuguese: Hipérbole (figura de estilo)
hyperbole in Romanian: Hiperbolă (figură de stil)
hyperbole in Russian: Гипербола (литература)
hyperbole in Simple English: Exaggeration
hyperbole in Slovak: Hyperbola (literatúra)
hyperbole in Finnish: Hype
hyperbole in Swedish: Hyperbol
hyperbole in Turkish: Abartıcılık
hyperbole in Ukrainian: Гіпербола
hyperbole in Chinese: 誇飾

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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