Studying examples of hyperbole will help you better understand how and when to use this literary device.
The English language has many figures of speech that students can study as they learn to write well. Simile, metaphor and idioms are all examples of this. Hyperbole is yet another.
Hyperbole occurs when someone exaggerates what they are saying to emphasize a point. This type of exaggeration happens often in everyday conversation, and it also shows up in literary works and modern pop culture.
Studying examples of hyperbole will help you identify it and then choose if you are going to use it in your writing.
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Before Studying Examples of Hyperbole, Define Your Terms
Before you can explore various examples of hyperbole, you must know what it is, specifically.
The definition of hyperbole is the exaggeration of a phrase or statement to emphasize something. People usually know that hyperbole is not literal, but it makes a point stronger through overstatement.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word hyperbole comes from the Greek word hyperbolē. This means “excess,” which makes sense because that is exactly what the literary device is. You might also find our guide on the best euphemism examples for everyday use helpful.
Common Examples of Hyperbole
Before looking at specific instances of this literary device in literature, first, take a look at these examples of hyperbole from everyday speech that you could add to your own creative writing. As you read them, consider how they exaggerate something to make a point and grab the reader’s attention:
1. After he lost weight, he was a toothpick
Clearly, he was not literally a toothpick.
2. Her brain was the size of a pea
Again, this cannot be literal
3. I love you to the moon and back
That’s a pretty long way to love someone.
4. Cry me a river
No one can cry a “river” of tears.
5. I slept like a rock
Rocks cannot sleep.
6. It’s light as a feather
Very rarely would this be literal.
7. It’s a jungle out there
Unless you live in South America, that’s hyperbole.
8. They’re walking slower than a turtle
This one could be true, but usually, it’s an exaggeration.
9. Superman was faster than a speeding bullet
Most likely, the speaker did not measure Superman’s speed to compare it to the bullet.
10. I could sleep a million years because I’m so tired
Since that’s longer than the typical lifespan, this is hyperbole.
11. It cost an arm and a leg
Most people won’t sever a limb to pay for something.
In each of these examples, a strict interpretation of the English writing would not make sense, but the reader knows it’s hyperbole and thus gets the writer’s meaning.
Examples of Hyperbole in Literature
Many famous literary works have hyperbole in them, both in poetry and fiction writing. Some of these include:
12. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147
In this sonnet, Shakespeare uses hyperbole quite often. The poet describes his love and desire for his beloved but exaggerates the feelings by making it appear the writer is sick with love.
“My love is as a fever, longing stillWilliam Shakespeare
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
Th’ uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescription are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did expect.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And, frantic-mad with evermore unrest,
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,
At random from the truth vainly expressed.
For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.”
No one who reads this poem really believes that Shakespeare is dying because of his love, which makes the hyperbole effective.
13. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (0060935464)
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee has several uses of hyperbole. One of the first is her description of Maycomb, the town that is the story’s setting. She says:
“A black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning.”
Most likely, it would take more than one hour for a starched and ironed collar to droop. Thus, she is exaggerating just a bit to emphasize just how hot it was.
14. The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain (1515251829)
In The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, Twain describes a man, Jim Smiley, who is willing to bet on anything. He places a bet that his pet frog could job higher than any other out there.
When describing the extent Smiley would go to place a bet, Twain says:
“If there were two birds setting on a fence, he would bet you which one would fly first.”
Though this could be true, in theory, it is an exaggeration that emphasizes how likely it would be for the man to bet.
Examples of Hyperbole in Pop Culture
Because this form of extreme exaggeration is so effective at grabbing attention, many instances pop up in modern culture. Here are some of them.
15. The Ballad of Davy Crocket by Thomas W. Blackburn
In this song, hyperbole is very consistent. You may hear it in this stanza:
“Born on a mountain top in TennesseeThomas W. Blackburn
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods, so he knew ev’ry tree
Kilt him a bear, when he was only three.”
Clearly, it would not be possible for Crockett to know every tree in the woods, so this is an example of hyperbole. Some of the other claims the song makes are probably hyperbole, but because it is a tall tale, they may be more possible.
16. Meow Mix Marketing Jingle
The Meow Mix marketing jingle features some cats singing “Meow” and then a narrator stating, “It tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.” This is not true because cats do not actually ask for a specific food. The hyperbole works, though, because it gets the thought of Meow Mix being a tasty food into the mind of the listener.
17. Gillette Razor Marketing Jingle
Gillette uses the marketing jingle and tagline:
“Gillette, the best a man can get.”
This phrase is catchy because it rhymes and promises the world to the man who uses Gillette. However, most likely, they are not the world’s best razors, making this a type of figurative language.
A Final Word on Examples of Hyperbole
Exaggeration happens regularly in English writing and speaking. If you learn to identify hyperbole, you will better understand what a writer is saying. Like many literary elements, if you learn to use it well, you will create more powerful creative writing works. You might also be interested in these 5 subjunctive mood examples from famous works of literature.
Hyperbole works when the reader clearly knows that the statement is an exaggeration. By making the statement so absurd and far-fetched, you grab the reader’s attention and show them your true meaning.
FAQs on Examples of Hyperbole
What are some examples of hyperbole?
Here are some examples of hyperbole:
1. I searched the whole world before I found you.
2. The phone rang a thousand times, and you never answered.
3. Her bad breath could knock over a skyscraper.
Why should you use hyperbole?
Use hyperbole when you want to emphasize a point. Make sure that it stands out so the reader knows what you are doing. Avoid over-using hyperbole because it loses its effectiveness when you do.
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