hyperbole

hyperbole

[hahy-pur-buh-lee]
hyperbole, a figure of speech in which exceptional exaggeration is deliberately used for emphasis rather than deception. Andrew Marvell employed hyperbole throughout To His Coy Mistress:
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest …
Hyperbole (hye-PER-buh-lee; "HYE-per-bowl" is a mispronunciation) comes from Greek "υπερβολή" (meaning 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, 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.

Some examples include:

  • These books weigh a ton. (weigh a great deal)
  • I could sleep for a year. (for a long time)
  • I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse. (eat anything)
  • Boston State-House is the hub of the solar system. (an important place)

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," Ch. 6

  • "Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together." (using hyperbole to illustrate the use of hyperbole)

-Kent Brockman, The Simpsons, Kamp Krusty, Episode 8F24.

Antonyms to hyperbole include meiosis, litotes, understatement, and bathos (the 'let down' after a hyperbole in a phrase).

Derived from the Greek ὑπερβολή (literally 'overshooting' or 'excess'), it is a cognate of hyperbola.

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