Hyperboles are not comparisons, like similes and metaphors, but extravagant and even ridiculous overstatements, not meant to be taken literally. In literature, hyperbole will often be used to show contrast or catch the reader's attention. Let's take a closer look.
Hyperbole Adds Emphasis
A simple conversation, a speech or a song can be brought to life or become comical with the use of hyperbole.
Hyperbole in Everyday Use
In these common, everyday examples of hyperbole, you'll see the sentiment isn't realistic, but it helps to stress the point.
- I've told you to clean your room a million times!
- It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing hats and jackets.
- She's so dumb, she thinks Taco Bell is a Mexican phone company.
- I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
- I have a million things to do today.
- When I was young, I had to walk 15 miles to school, uphill, in the snow.
- I had a ton of homework.
- If I can't buy that perfect prom dress, I'll die!
- He's as skinny as a toothpick.
- The car went faster than the speed of light.
- His new car cost a bazillion dollars.
- We're so poor we don't have two cents to rub together.
- That joke is so old, the last time I heard it I was riding a dinosaur.
- They ran like greased lightning.
- He's got tons of money.
- You could have knocked me over with a feather.
- Her brain is the size of a pea.
- My geography teacher is older than the hills.
Hyperbole in Speeches
When hyperbole is carefully placed into a speech, it can help you really punch your points. A tiny bit of exaggeration may be enough to perk up the ears of your audience.
"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of human talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House-with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
-President John F. Kennedy, White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners
"So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address
"That year, 1967, the Dallas Cowboys had 137 rookies in training camp. Gil Brandt was signing everybody that could walk. Only five made the team that year, and I was one of the five."
-Larry Rayfield Wright, Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Address
"Please sit down because having produced nine million award shows, I know the producer's up there saying, 'Hurry, say thanks fast'."
-Dick Clark, Daytime Emmy Award Acceptance Address
Hyperbole in Songs
Similar to a well-delivered speech, hyperbole can help paint a vivid picture or express a strong emotion in the lyrics of a song.
California girls, We're unforgettable, Daisy Dukes, Bikinis on top, Sun-kissed skin so hot, We'll melt your popsicle.
-Katy Perry, "California Gurls"
Now there's just no chance, for you and me, there'll never be, And don't it make you sad about it, Cry me a river, Cry me a river.
-Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me a River"
I would fly to the moon and back if you'll be... If you'll be my baby, Got a ticket for a world where we belong, So would you be my baby?
-Savage Garden, "To the Moon and Back"
Tonight for the first time, Just about half past ten, For the first time in history, It's gonna start raining men, It's raining men, Hallelujah, It's raining men, amen.
-The Weather Girls, "It's Raining Men"
I would walk 500 miles, And I would walk 500 more, Just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles to fall down at your door.
-The Proclaimers, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
Hyperbole in Advertising
If used properly, hyperbole can encourage consumers to buy products. There has been limited research into this area, but according to a 2007 study by Mark A. Callister PhD & Lesa A. Stern PhD, "The Role of Visual Hyperbole in Advertising Effectiveness" found that "hyperbolic ads produce more ad liking than nonhyperbolic ads."
Examples of hyperboles in advertising include:
- Adds amazing luster for infinite, mirror-like shine (Brilliant Brunette shampoo)
- It doesn't get better than this. (Oscar Meyer)
- The best a man can get (Gillette)
- Mints so strong they come in a metal box (Altoids)
Accentuate and Exaggerate
Remember, hyperbole is over the top and not meant to be taken literally. Keep your ears open for examples of these exaggerations in every source, from poetry and plays to everyday conversations and commercials. Try using hyperbole yourself to show contrast or inject feeling and humor into your writing.
And, while you're at it, enjoy some Examples of Hyperbole in Literature. When used appropriately, a hyperbole's effect is purposeful and emphatic, causing the reader to pay attention. Just be careful not to overdo the overstatement!
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