Hyperbole (/hˈpɜːrbəli/; Ancient Greek: ὑπερβολή, huperbolḗ, from ὑπέρ (hupér, 'above') and βάλλω (bállō, 'I throw')) is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. In rhetoric, it is also sometimes known as auxesis (literally 'growth'). In poetry and oratory, it emphasizes, evokes strong feelings, and creates strong impressions. As a figure of speech, it is usually not meant to be taken literally.[1][2]


Hyperbole may also be used for instances such as, exaggerations for emphasis or effect. Hyperboles are often used in casual speech as intensifiers,[3][4] such as saying "the bag weighed a ton"or "I've been walking for hours.".[5] Hyperbole makes the point that the speaker found the bag to be extremely heavy, although it was nothing like a literal ton".[6] The rhetorical device makes a point that could not be conveyed with standard or literal language, or, at least, not stated as effectively. For example, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). Some may take this literally, but most would understand Jesus’ saying as a bold overstatement to make a point.[7] Understanding hyperboles and their use in context can further one's ability to understand the messages being sent from the speaker. The use of hyperboles generally relays feelings or emotions from the speaker, or from those who the speaker may talk about. Hyperbole can be used in a form of humor, excitement, distress, and many other emotions, all depending on the context in which the speaker uses it.[8]

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  1. ^ "Hyperbole". Dictionary.com. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
  2. ^ "Hyperbole". Utk.edu. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Definition of Hyperbole". Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Hyperbole - Definition of hyperbole by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com.
  5. ^ Mahony, David (2003). Literacy Tests Year 7. Pascal Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-877-08536-9.
  6. ^ "Hyperbole". Byu.edu. Archived from the original on 17 July 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  7. ^ James L. Resseguie, Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 62.
  8. ^ Johnson, Christopher. "The Rhetoric of Excess in Baroque Literature and Thought" (PDF). Scholar.havard.edu. Harvard.

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