(1)   Extravagant exaggeration


From hyperbole < < + .


  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.


  • 1602William 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.
  • 1837Nathaniel Hawthorne, Legends of the Province House
    The great staircase, however, may be termed, without much hyperbole, a feature of grandeur and magnificence.
  • 1841James 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.1910Theodore 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.