hyperbole

play
noun hy·per·bo·le \hī-ˈpər-bə-(ˌ)lē\

Definition of hyperbole

  1. :  extravagant exaggeration (such as “mile-high ice-cream cones”)

hyperbolist

play \hī-ˈpər-bə-list\ noun

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Examples of hyperbole in a Sentence

  1. Four decades later we're all blabbermouths, adrift on a sea of hyperbole, shouting to be heard. —Steve Rushin, Sports Illustrated, 1 Apr. 2002

  2. … balanced on the razor edge of anachronism, creating a rich stew of accepted and invented history, anecdote, myth and hyperbole. —T. Coraghessan Boyle, New York Times Book Review, 18 May 1997

  3. Even if we discount the hyperbole evident in such accounts, they were far from inventions. —Lawrence W. Levine, The Unpredictable Past, 1993

  4. enough food to feed a whole army is a common example of hyperbole

How is hyperbole pronounced—and why?

This word doesn't behave the way we expect a word that's spelled this way to behave. It begins with the prefix hyper-, which we know in words like hyperlink (and in the adjective hyper itself), but instead of having the accent, or emphasis, on the first syllable—HYE-per-link—it has the accent on the second syllable: hye-PER-buh-lee. And then there's that bole. It should sound just like the word bowl, right? Nope. Instead it's two syllables: \buh-lee\ .

The word comes to English directly from Latin, but the Latin word is from a Greek word that has one crucial visual difference. It has a line, called a macron, over the final e: hyperbolē. The macron tells us that the vowel is pronounced like \ee\ .

The fact that hyperbole is pronounced in a way counter to the usual workings of English pronunciation gives a hint as to the word's history in the language. Although these days you might encounter hyperbole in a magazine at the doctor's office, the word's first was use was technical. It's from the field of rhetoric, which makes it at home with terms like metaphor, trope, and litotes. And speaking of litotes (pronounced \LYE-tuh-teez\ ), that term is an approximate antonym of hyperbole. It refers to understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negation of the contrary, as in "not a bad idea" or "not unpleasant."

Did You Know?

In the 5th century B.C. there was a rabble-rousing Athenian, a politician named Hyperbolus, who often made exaggerated promises and claims that whipped people into a frenzy. But even though it sounds appropriate, Hyperbolus' name did not play a role in the development of the modern English word hyperbole. That noun does come to us from Greek (by way of Latin), but from the Greek verb hyperballein, meaning "to exceed," not from the name of the Athenian demagogue.

Origin and Etymology of hyperbole

Latin, from Greek hyperbolē excess, hyperbole, hyperbola, from hyperballein to exceed, from hyper- + ballein to throw — more at devil


First Known Use: 15th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms


HYPERBOLE Defined for English Language Learners

hyperbole

play
noun hy·per·bo·le \hī-ˈpər-bə-(ˌ)lē\

Definition of hyperbole for English Language Learners

  • : language that describes something as better or worse than it really is



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an exhausted condition

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