DefinitionHyperbole is a figure of speech through which a statement or assertion is made with an obvious exaggeration of fact. In other words, it is a way of expression that makes a person or thing better or worse, or larger or smaller than he/it really is.
EtymologyThe term hyperbole originated in the late Middle English period via Latin hyperbolē, from Ancient Greek huperbolḗ, meaning “excess, exaggeration”, from hupér, meaning "to throw" + bállō, meaning "over or beyond".
Adjective: hyperbolic; hyperbolical
DiscussionHyperbole is not meant to be taken literally. It is primarily intended for understanding from figurative level only. The figurative level represents an unreal or exaggerated comparison to emphasize an actual situation or possibility. For example:
In the above sentence the speaker makes a point that he climbed mountains to accomplish certain goal, although it is apparent that actually he did nothing like that. He used this overstatement to emphasize the hard work and effort he put towards his goal. Let us consider the following illustration for further clarification:
In the above illustration Part-A represents the actual situation, whereas Part-B represents an overstatement of Part-A. Therefore, Part-B is the hyperbole of Part-A.
Hyperbole is a favourite rhetorical device in literature and writers use it extensively in fictional works, such as poetry, stories, etc. However, hyperbolic comparisons are rarely used in serious non-fictional works. Although hyperbole is generally tagged with literature, it is also very common in everyday speech.
A hyperbole may employ other figures of speech such as simile and metaphor to produce the exaggeration. For example, the following simile consists of a hyperbole:
Function of Hyperbole
- Hyperbolic exaggeration emphasizes a certain point.
- Hyperbole incorporates humour to the story.
- Hyperbole makes the story more interesting and arresting.
- Encourages the readers to retain interest.
ReferencesGupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995
Griffith, Benjamin W. A Pocket Guide to Literature and Language Terms. New York: Barron's, 1976
"Hyperbole”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 5 September 2016
"Hyperbole”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 5 September 2016