Figure Name hyperbole
Source Aristotle 3.11.15-16; Ad Herennium 4.33.44 ("superlatio"); Quintilian 8.6.67-76; Bede 615; Trebizond 61v ("superlatio," "hyperbole"); Susenbrotus (1540) 17-19 ("hyberbole," "superlatio," "dementiens superiectio," "eminentia," "excessus"); Sherry (1550) 71; Peacham (1577) D4v; Putt. (1589) 202 ("hiperbole," "over reacher or the loud lyer"); Day 1599 80; Butler B1r-v; Silva Rhetoricae (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm); JG Smith (1665) ("hyperbole"); Ad Herennium (339-341); Garrett Epp (1994) ("superlatio," "hyperbole"); Gibbons (1767) 84 ("hyperbole"); Vinsauf (1967) ("hyperbole (superlatio)"); Holmes (1806) ("hyperbole"); Macbeth (1876); Hart (1874) 169-170; Bain (1867) 55 ("hyperbole"); De Mille (1882); Hill (1883); Waddy (1889); Demetrius (1902) 129; Jamieson (1844) 177; Blount (1653) 24 ("hiperbole"); Raub (1888) 210; Blackwall (1718); Bullinger (1898) ("hyperbole; or, exaggeration"); Johnson (1903) ("hyperbole"); Norwood (1742) ("hyperbole"); Kellog (1880) ("hyperbole"); Vickers (1989) ("hyperbole")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms superlatio, excessus, over reacher, the loud lyer, exaggeration, epauxesis, hyperoche, hyperthesis, superlatio
Etymology from huper or hyper, "over and above" and bolee "a casting" from ballein, "to throw"
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Rhetorical exaggeration. Hyperbole is often accomplished via comparisons, similes, and metaphors. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Exuperation, or a passing of bounds; it is when the Trope is exceedingly inlarged; or when in advancing or repressing one speaks much more than is precisely true, yea, above all belief, &c.; Hyperbole, Superlatio, Exuperatio, (Note in marg: Alicujus ougendi minuendive causa superat veritatem.) Exuporation or a passing of measure or bounds; derived from [hyperballo] supero, to exceed. It is an eminent excesse in advancing or repressing, and is when the Trope is exceedingly inlarged, or when the change of signification is very high and lofty, or when in advancing or repressing one speaks much more then is precisely true, yea above all belief. Hyperbole sometimes expresses a thing in the highest degree of possibility beyond the truth, that in descending thence we may finde the truth and sometimes in flat impossibilities, that we may rather conceive the unspeakablenesse then the untruth of the relation. But though an Hyperbole may be beyond belief, yet ought it not to be beyond measure or rule; let it suffice to advertise, that an Hyperbole feigns or resembles, not that it would by a fiction or untruth deceive; but then is the vertue and property of an Hyperbole, when the thing it self, of which we speak, exceeds the natural rule or measure, therefore it is granted to speak more largely, because as much as the thing is, can not be reached unto. (JG Smith)

3. Hyperbole is a manner of speech exaggerating the truth, whether for the sake of magnifying or minifying something. This is used independently, or with comparison. (Ad Herennium)

4. Exaggeration, used either to magnify or to belittle something. (Garrett Epp)

5. "...a Trope, that in its representation of things either magnifies or diminishes beyond or below the line of strict truth, or to a degree that is disproportioned to the real nature of the subject." (Gibbons)

6. Give hyperbole reign, but see that its discourse does not run ineptly hither and yon. Let reason keep it in check, and its moderate use be a source of pleasure, that neither mind nor ear may shrink from excess. (Vinsauf)

6. Here I speak in excessive terms about a thing that is in itself excessive; I chide immoderately what is not moderate; there is moderation neither in the actual situation not in my expression of it. If the situation is more moderate than my words, still the excessive language does suggest that there is less excess in the fact itself. (Vinsauf)

7. Hyperbole soars high, or creeps too low; Exceeds the truth, things wonderful to show. (Holmes)

8. This may often be essentially the language of truth, for that which is an exaggerated statement of the matter of fact may be no more than a fair statement of the matter of feeling; so that, without hyperbole, it might be impossible to show the strong view you are taking of things - the enthusiasm that hurries you along. (Macbeth)

9. Hyperbole is an exaggeration. It consists in representing things to be either greater or less, better or worse, than they really care. The object of hyperbole is to make the thought more effective by overstating it. (Hart)

10. "consists in magnifying objects beyond their natural bounds, so as to make them more impressive or intelligible." (Bain)

11. 163. HYPERBOLE.
Hyperbole may be considered as the highest form of the augmentative figures. It gives the largest possible liberty to the imagination, and for this reason is often classified with the figures of similarity, with which imagination has more to do. It is properly, however, one of the figures of gradation.
Hyperbole may be defined as the enlargement of an object beyond its natural and proper dimensions. Quintilian calls it "an elegant surpassing of truth." In its highest form it is associated with excitement of feeling. (De Mille)

12. (2) Hyperbole.- Emotion once excited, though brief, is cumulative. As the eye runs along the ascending lines of some cathedrals spire until it leaps into free space, so emotion rising with indescribable swiftness, is soon far above its primary causes. Hence exaggeration is natural to imaginative and emotional people, who conceive more vividly than facts allow, and speak even more vividly than they conceive. The philosophy of the figure i9s, that facts are measured by the strength of the co-existent emotion, and hence, in expression, are magnified to correspond with the emotion. The hyperbole is, therefore, a form of expression in which one thing is said under the form of another more impressive than itself. (Hill)

13. Hyperbole consists in magnifying an object beyond the bounds of what is even possible; as, "He was a man of boundless knowledge." IT is the natural expression of strong passion and emotion, and is much used in poetry and oratory. (Waddy)

13. Hyperbole is of three kinds, being expressed either in the form of likeness, as 'a match for the winds in speed'; or of superiority, as 'whiter than snow'; or of impossibility, as 'with her head she has smitten the sky.' (Demetrius)

14. "Hyperbole is also the offspring of the influence of imagination and passion over our opinions, and its purpose is to exalt our conceptions of an object beyond its natural bounds." (Jamieson)

15. "sometimes it expresseth a thing in the highest degree of possibility beyond the truth, that in descending thence, you may finde the truth. Sometimes in flat impossibilities, that you may rather conceive the unspeakbleness, then the untruth of the relation." (Blount)

16. "Hyperbole is a figure in which the object is either exaggerated or disparaged. Objects are represented to be either greater or les, or better or worse, than they really are." (Raub)

17. Hyperbole is a Trope that goes beyond the Bounds of strict Truth, in representing Things greater or smaller, better or worse than really they are, in order to raise Admiration or Love, Fear or Contemps. (...) Therefore Temper and Judgment are to be us'd in both Branches of this Trope, in Excess and Defect; that we neither fly too high, nor sink too low; that we neither misapply nor carry too far our Wonder and Praises, nor our Contempt and Invectives. (...) There are various Ways of expressing an Hyperbole: I shall name three which seem to be the Chief.
(1) In plain and direct Terms which far exceed the Strictness of Truth.
(2) By Similitude or Comparison.
(3) By a strong Metaphor.

18. When more is said than is literaly meant... The figure is so called because the expression adds to the sense so much that it exaggerates it, and enlarges or diminishes it more than is really meant in fact. Or, when more is said than is meant to be literally understood, in order to heighten the sense. (Bullinger, 448)

19. Hyperbole.—This figure consists of a declaration or suggestion that exaggerates or minifies beyond the bounds of truth or possibility. (Johnson, 124)

20. HYPERBOLE. Hypebole, from (uperballo,) to exceed. This Figure represents things greater, Iesser, or better, than they are in their own natures; and this fort of Trope is extremely useful, when our ordinary terms are so very weak, that they carry in them no proportion, with the notices of our mind; and so the foul, for fear of speaking too little, presently flies out, and enlargeth too much; but let no one fancy, that the use of this Figure is in the least unlawful; for if we sometimes express ourselves in the highest, or in the lowest degree imaginable, yet it is no lie, for we have not the least intention to deceive anyone; but we only fly so extravagantly high, that our discourse may come down with more force into the minds of our audience, and give them such a sense of what we are talking, as may oblige them to conceive it is highly impossible; else to enlarge their thoughts about it. (Norwood, 24-25)

21. Hyperboles, extravagant expressions overstating the facts or magnifying the truth, are set down by some writers as a separate figure. But though hyperbole may sometimes be found in expressions not figurative, it seems to us better to call it a characteristic of imagery than a separate image. All images magnify the thought they convey or illustrate. It is thus that they make it more prominent and distinct than a literal statement of it could. (Kellog, 130)

22. Hyperbole (or superlatio), exaggeration of scale in order to describe outstanding qualities. (Vickers 495)


1. I've told you a million times
not to exaggerate.(Silva Rhetoricae)

6. From the numerous and great resources left by his father, the squanderer of wealth had not enough to conceal his poverty with a covering, nor even an earthen jug in which to beg a fire. (Vinsauf)

2. [1] Auxesis: In dispraise.

Thus a proud man is called Lucifer, a drunkard a swine, an angry man mad.

In praise.

Thus a fair virgin is called an Angel; good musick celestial harmony; and flowers in medowes, stars.
[2] In Meiosis, the speaker ought to take care that he fall not into that fault of speech, called Tapinosis, humility, that is when the dignity or majesty of a high matter is much defaced by the basenesse of a word; as to call the Ocean a stream, or the Thames a brook, a foughten field. (JG Smith)

5. "Such are the expressions whiter than snow, blacker than a raven, swifter than the wind, and the like." (Gibbons)

5. "Thus we speak of moving slower than a snail, of being as deaf as a rock, as blind as a mole, and of being wasted to a skeleton." (Gibbons)

3." But if we maintain concord in the state,
we shall measure the empire's vastness by the rising and the setting of the sun." (Ad Herennium)

3. "His body was as white as snow, his face burned like fire." (Ad Herennium)

3. "From his mouth flowed speech sweeter than honey." (Ad Herennium)

3. "So great was his splendour in arms that the sun's brilliance seemed dim by comparison" (Ad Herennium)

4. Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine
Making the green one red. (Macbeth 2.2 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

6. For example, employing this trope: A rain of darts lashes the foe like hail; the shattered array of spears resembles a forest; a tide of blood flows like a wave of the sea, and bodies clog the valleys. (Vinsauf)

7. He runs swifter than the Wind, i.e. very swiftly. (Holmes)

9. "Waves mountain high" (Hart)

10. "'Swift as the wind;' 'rivers of blood and hills of slain,'…." (Bain)

12. Saul and Jonathan are represented as "swifter than eagles and stronger than lions." Every intelligent reader knows that this is said in the exaggerated form suggested by strong emotion, and yet he feels, at the same time, that be this very exaggeration that feeling of wonder and admiration which prompted the form of expression is 'communicated' to himself. (Hill)

13. This figure is of more frequent occurrence when a comic effect is intended; as, "The English gain two hours a day by clipping words." (Waddy)

13. 'Balder than the cloudless blue.' (Demetrius)

13. 'Lustier than a pumpkin.' (Demetrius)

14. "Shakespeare supposes the elevation of the lover's mind so great as to counteract the natural laws of gravity respecting his body. 'A lover may bestride the Gossamer, / That idles in the wanton summer air, / And yet not fall--so light is vanity.'" (Jamieson)

15. "[1] he gave as pleasing entertainment, as the falsest heart could give him, whom he means worst unto. That ever eye saw, or heart could imagine. …[2] though a thousand deaths followed it, and every death were followed with a hundred dishonors." (Blount)

16. "As cold as ice, as white as snow, as quick as lightning" (Raub)

17. Outstript the Winds in speed upon the Plain,
Flew o're the Fields, nor hurt the bearded Grain.
She swept the Seas, and as she skim'd along,
Her flying Feet unbath'd on Billows hung. - Camilla

17.(1) The Gyant's lofty Head o'retops the Clouds. (Blackwall)

17.(2) It seems as if the Cyclades again
Were rooted up and justied in the Main:
Or floating Mountains floating Mountains meet:
Such is the first Encounter of the Fleet. (Blackwall)

18. Gen. 2:24. -"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife." This does not mean that he is to forsake and no longer to love or care for his parents. So Matt. 19:5. (Bullinger, 449)

19. When Puck, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, declares,

I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes,

he presents an excellent example of hyperbole—unless we suppose him to have had foreknowledge of the electric telegraph. And when Nick Bottom, in the same play, promises "I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you an 'twere any nightingale," he presents an equally fine example of the hyperbole that minifies. John Dennis furnishes an example of what may be called speculative hyperbole in his famous epigram: "A man who could make so vile a pun would not scruple to pick a pocket." King Richard's "My kingdom for a horse!" is a fine example of hyperbole used to suggest the highest excitement. Perhaps the strongest
hyperbole in Shakespeare, if not in all literature, is Macbeth's declaration of his eternal guiltiness:
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine.

Of the ruder kind of hyperbole, common in every-day conversation, an extreme example is furnished by a sailor who was trying to out-wish his shipmate. He said : " I wish I had so much money that a shipload of needles must be worn out making bags to hold the interest of it." Profane language is full of this figure. Hyperbole is necessarily a frequent figure in humorous composition. Sydney Smith furnishes a famous example in his, "Heat, ma'am! It was so dreadful here that I found that there was nothing left for it but to take ofif my flesh and sit in my bones." An American is said to have improved on this with the suggestion, "Take the marrow out of the bones, and get a draft through." The danger in the use of hyperbole is, that it is easy to carry it to a foolish excess. When a professional humorist has virtually written himself out, but still finds a market for anything bearing his signature, it is noticeable that he relies mainly upon this
figure, exaggerated and hyper-exaggerated, sometimes to the verge of silliness. (Johnson, 124-125

20. 2. Sam. I. 23. Of the latter kind, Saul and Jonathan were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions; and by such sensible ideas, and familiar resemblances, you conceive still but an higher notion of their mighty strength and activity. (Norwood, 25)

20. Gen. 32. 12. Thy feed shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude; and companion only implies, that his family should be exceeding numerous. (Norwood, 25)

20. Psal. I07. 26. The waves of the sea mount up to Heaven, and go down again to the deep; that is, the foaming waters are carried up exceedingly high, and they tumble down again into the lowest places
of the earth. See Luke 10. 15. to the same purpose. (Norwood, 25-26)

22. His legs bestrid the ocean, his rear'd arm
Crested the world, his voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends...
--Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, 5.2.82 (Vickers 495)

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of Metaphor
Related Figures figures of excess and superfluity, figures of amplification, auxesis, litotes, bomphiologia, metalepsis, metaphor, meiosis
Notes General Rhetorical Strategy: Amplification Hyperbole is twofold, viz. [1.] Auxesis, when we increase or advance the signification of a speech. Augmentum, an increasing. It is when for the increasing, and amplifying we put a word more grave and substantial in stead of the proper word being lesse. [2.] Meiosis, When we diminish or repress the signification of a speech. Diminutio, extenuatio, Diminution, or lessening. It is when lesse is spoken, yet more is understood; or when for extenuation sake we use a lighter and more easie word or terme then the matter requires; or when we put a lesse word for a greater. But the Hyperbolical Meiosis or Dimunition, is that which increases defect. Thus a great wound is called a scratch; a flat fall, a foile, and a raging railer, a testy fellow, &c. As Auxesis of small things makes great matters, so Meiosis of great matters makes but trifles. (JG Smith)
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Daniel Etigson
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes This figure may also be related to Irony. -[nike]
Reviewed No