Definition of Hyperbole in English

Hyperbole is a rhetorical or literary figure that consists in excessively increasing or decreasing an aspect, characteristic or property of what is being said. However, in a general sense, the exaggeration of something is called hyperbole itself.

The word, as such, comes from the Latin hyperbŏle , and is in turn from the Greek ὑπερβολή (hyperbolḗ).

The hyperbole is a trope that is used in order to give greater expressive force to a message, or to produce a certain impact or effect on the interlocutor. In this sense, this literary figure can be used as an emphatic, expressive, ironic or humorous resource. For example: “I was so sleepy that I fell asleep standing.”

Hyperbole exaggerates or transcends the credible deliberately to underline or emphasize something, to make it more interesting or atypical. However, the interlocutor is, in general, able to recognize when some data, aspect or fact is hyperbolizing, and, in this sense, knows that he should not take the words to the letter, in its literal sense, but rather in a figurative sense. For example: “I have called you a thousand times to your house.”

We use hyperbole in our day to day, quite naturally, when we speak figuratively. Hyperbole allows us to express things in an unusual way but also more expressive, more lively.

Hyperbole Examples

Colloquial Uses:

  • I wrote you five hundred messages and you didn’t answer me.
  • I was studying for twenty exams at once, I felt that my brain was going to explode.
  • How cold it is: I freeze my feet.
  • He does not know how to cook; It burns to the water.
  • He felt that a thousand years had passed since he last saw her.

Literary uses:

  • “The dictator (…) whose power had been so great that he once asked what time it is and had answered what you order my general” Gabriel García Márquez. The autumn of the patriarch.
  • “The man was tall and so skinny that he always seemed in profile.” Mario Vargas Llosa. The war of the end of the world.