Guide to Literary Terms Hyperbole

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is an obvious and deliberate exaggeration or an extravagant statement. It is a figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, since it is exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. Hyperbole is a common poetic, comedic, and dramatic device, but is also used in everyday speech (ex: you might say “I’m starving” when you are hungry).

Correct example:

  • “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 sun up to find out what folks were talking about the night before.”

    • The hyperbole employed in this excerpt from a Paul Bunyan folktale lets the reader know that the winter in question was very cold, but makes the tone silly and whimsical because of the obvious exaggeration.  

Incorrect example:

  • “I stayed up late last night, so I’m very tired.”

    • The feeling of tiredness described here is not exaggerated enough to be hyperbole and lacks a figurative component, as in “I stayed up late last night, so I’m dying of exhaustion.”