What Is Hyperbole?
Hyperbole is a use of exaggeration for effect. It comes from the Greek, where its original meaning was "a throwing (or casting) beyond."
Hyperbole has been widely used in literature since the Renaissance. In his famous sonnet, "My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun," Shakespeare pokes fun at the Petrarchan love sonnets popular in his day, which used hyperbole to idealize female beauty.
Today, people use hyperbole frequently in everyday situations, sometimes adding the word "literally" to strengthen a hyperbolic expression. "I am literally starving to death." Hyperbole often takes the form of a simile: "I’m as hungry as a bear."
Examples of Hyperbole
1. I have millions of papers to grade this weekend.
2. Her beauty shone as brightly as all the stars in the heavens.
3. "Above all was my sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?"
Poe uses hyperbole in "The Tell-Tale Heart" to help create reader distrust in his unreliable narrator.
4. I’m giving it 110 percent effort.
5. "In brief: all flowers from her their virtue take;/From her sweet breath their sweet smells do proceed;"
These lines from Henry Constable’s sonnet, "My lady’s presence makes the roses red," uses hyperbole to emphasis the perfection of his love.