Have you ever felt at a loss for words to describe what you are feeling or the point you are making? Odds are you’ve probably turned to using hyperbole. Hyperbole is used throughout common conversations, speech, rhetoric, film, and literature. What is a hyperbole? Why is it so commonly used and what is it effective at communicating? Let’s take a look at the function of this very specific and useful tool. 

What is a hyperbole?

First, let’s define hyperbole

Hyperbole, along with many literary devices, are techniques to better communicate our ideas. What is the definition of hyperbole and how do we distinguish this from other literary devices? Before we present some classic and effective examples, let’s take a look at the hyperbole definition. 


What is a hyperbole?

Hyperbole is a literary device used to draw emphasis through extreme exaggeration. Hyperbole is not meant to be taken literally, but rather understood as a means of communicating something specific. Those who hear or read the hyperbole should understand that it is an exaggeration. 

You’ve probably heard common hyperboles in everyday conversations such as “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse,” “I’ve seen this movie a hundred times,” or “It cost an arm and a leg.”

How to pronounce hyperbole: hi-PUR-bo-lee

What is a hyperbole used for?

  • Describe a feeling
  • Emphasize a point
  • Comedic delivery

Examples of Hyperbole

Hyperbole examples

Before we break down the many uses of hyperbole, let's quickly review some classic examples. As you run through these, you'll be able to see just how common and effective this figure of speech really is.

  • I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse
  • My feet are killing me
  • That plane ride took forever
  • This is the best book ever written
  • I love you to the moon and back
  • The pen is mightier than the sword
  • I've told you this 20,000 times
  • Cry me a river

As you can see, we either use or encounter hyperbolic language on a daily basis in our everyday speech. So, what does that mean for writers? Whether you're crafting the next great American novel, writing a comedic screenplay, or advertising a product in a commercial, you'll need to have this technique in your toolkit. 

If you're writing dialogue, for example, it usually helps to use language that actually sounds how people talk. This is just one way to make that happen. Now, let's look at some specific examples and applications.

What is a hyperbole used for?

Describe a feeling

Now that you understand the definition of hyperbole, let’s take a look at what it’s used for. The most common reason it is used in both literature, film, and everyday conversation is to describe a feeling. 

When people describe a feeling of incredible anxiety or sudden sadness they say, “I have a pit in my stomach.” 

The person saying this does not literally have a pit in their stomach, but is trying to describe the negative feeling they have.

The same goes for feelings of joy. A feeling of incredible joy is often hard to describe, so people turn to hyperboles. 

What is a hyperbole used for in dialogue?

In film, a great example of this can be found in the film Titanic. One of the most iconic lines of the film describes Jack’s feeling of immense joy. 

Jack stands at the front of the ship exclaiming, “I’m king of the world!”

Titanic  •  Hyperbole examples

Despite what he says, Jack is not king of the world. In fact, he is far from it. But the hyperbole makes it clear to the audience exactly how he is feeling in this specific moment. 

What is a hyperbole used for?

Emphasize a point

Another way this is used is to emphasize a point. Exaggeration makes it clear how much a person believes in a statement. In everyday conversation, we might say, “He is as tall as a building” to describe a really tall person. 

In his first inaugural address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used hyperbole to reassure the country when he said, "So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Franklin D. Roosevelt  •  Hyperbole Examples

Obviously, there are other things to fear. But exaggeration underscores the point that FDR wanted to make: fear does not help, it only makes things worse. So, no matter the circumstances, when a point needs to be made sometimes plain language is simply insufficient.

What is the definition of hyperbole?

Comedic delivery

Lastly, hyperbolic language is a great vehicle for comedy. Exaggeration allows people to get creative with what they are trying to communicate in amusing ways. What is an example of hyperbole as comedic delivery?

One of the most iconic lines of the film The Sandlot both expresses frustration and is a means of comedic delivery. When Ham is frustrated with Scotty Smalls for not knowing what a s’more is, he says, “You’re killing me, Smalls!” 

Hyperbole examples  •  The Sandlot

This example is great at describing Ham’s feelings in an amusing way. The exaggeration is the reason the line has become iconic in cinema. 

Hyperbole is one of the most common literary devices and figures of speech used in everyday language. Keep an eye out for how people use this in everyday conversations whether it be to describe a feeling, emphasize a point, or make a joke. It’ll teach you how to use hyperboles effectively in the stories you write. 


Explore more literary devices

Hyperbole is just one of many literary devices and types of figurative language, including juxtaposition, oxymorons, and satire. If you're a writer and want to develop your craft fully, do yourself a favor and continue this exploration. The next article on literary devices is a gateway to many of these tools that help add substance and style to any type of written work.

Up Next: Literary Devices Index →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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