English is a beautiful language and in order to master the language, one has to be aware of the linguistic nuances and wordplay that are possible in the language. The rules of grammar, the phrases, and the figures of speech are all a part of the ensemble. Before discussing the examples of hyperboles, you should know what a hyperbole is or more importantly, what figures of speech are.
Figure of Speech
A figure of speech or a rhetoric or locution is a word or a single phrase that goes off the straightforward literal language. There are two main categories of figures of speech - the schemes and the tropes. A scheme refers to a figure of speech, which changes the normal arrangement of words in a standard sentence structure. On the other hand, a trope refers to the use of a word or a phrase in a way not intended by its normal signification. Thus, collectively tropes and schemes are referred to as the figures of speech.
Definition of a Hyperbole
Now that we know what figures of speech are, we can get into the details of what a hyperbole is. It is a figure of speech used in the English language. The word hyperbole has its origin in the Greek language and means excess or exaggeration. By definition, a hyperbole is nothing but a trope composed of exaggerated words or ideals used for emphasis. Also described as 'the implied simile', hyperbole is a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated to create an impact and are not supposed to be interpreted literally. They are commonly used in prose as well as poetry. However, although valued in creative writing, hyperboles are avoided in formal writing or business writing.
- 'Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, (The Concord Hymn)
- 'If thou dost slander her and torture me,
Never pray more; abandon all remorse;
On horror's head accumulate;
Do deeds to make heaven weep, all earth amazed;
For nothing canst thou to damnation add
Greater than that.' ~ Shakespeare (Othello)
- 'I have seen this river so wide it had only one bank.' - Mark Twain
- My eyes widened at the sight of the mile-high ice cream cones we were having for dessert.
- The movie was so bad that I wanted to gorge my eyes out.
- She's so fat she could crush a car with her weight.
- Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together. ~ Kent Brockman (The Simpsons)
- These books in your bag weigh a ton.
- I am so tired I could sleep for a year.
- Her brain is the size of peanut.
- He's got a truckload of money.
- I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse right now.
- I'll murder her if she doesn't arrive for the party on time.
- He is older than the hills.
- I'll go insane if I don't get to the meeting on time.
- She is as big as an elephant!
- I'm really busy, I am doing like ten million things at the same time.
- She'd die if she didn't eat a bar of chocolate everyday.
- Bill Gates has enough money to feed an entire continent.
- 'Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred. Then still another thousand, then a hundred.' ~ Catullus
So, there you go. Now you know everything about hyperboles. Reading prose and poetry and finding out and identifying the various figures of speech from them can be a useful exercise to learn about this kind of speech.