English Language


Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

What is Hyperbole?

Hyperbole is a literary technique that uses exaggeration to express intense emotions or emphasize a point. It is a figure of speech that is not meant to be taken literally, but rather to draw attention to its figurative meaning.

Remember the Four E's to understand the definition of hyperbole: exaggeration, emphasize, express, and evoke. These words capture the essence of this literary device.

Why is it Used?

Hyperbole is commonly used by individuals who want to make something seem more dramatic or amplify their feelings and experiences. It is a powerful way to convey a message and can also add humor or enhance the tension in a situation.

For instance, saying "she takes forever to get ready in the morning" implies that the person is taking an excessively long time, though it is impossible to actually take forever. This exaggeration may also express impatience. Similarly, saying "these shoes are killing me" exaggerates the discomfort, while "I've told you a million times" emphasizes the frustration of repeating oneself.

Another example is "I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse." This phrase exaggerates the feeling of hunger and highlights the speaker's capability to consume a significant amount of food. In contrast, saying "this bag weighs a ton" is an exaggeration to stress the heaviness of the bag.

Hyperbole in Literature

Hyperbole is also frequently used as a literary device in well-known literature. In Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, the character Hoshino experiences excruciating pain, described as "a huge flash of light...thrown from the top of a tall tower into the depths of hell." This hyperbole amplifies the intensity of Hoshino's pain.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky also utilizes hyperbole to express overwhelming emotion, as the main character says "I had the best time I ever had in my whole life." This exaggeration highlights the significance of the experience.

In Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, the character expresses intense loneliness through hyperbole - "I might die of loneliness... if someone doesn't hold me, touch me." This exaggeration emphasizes the profound loneliness that Eleanor feels.

Understanding the Differences Between Hyperbole, Metaphors, and Similes

When it comes to describing the effects of loneliness, there are a few key literary techniques that can be used. These include hyperbole, metaphors, and similes. Although they all rely on figurative language, they are not entirely the same. Let's dive deeper into how they differ and explore some examples.

Hyperbole vs. Metaphors

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly compares something else to describe something. It should not be taken literally, but it can use exaggeration to make a point. For instance, saying "Her voice is music to my ears" compares the pleasantness of a voice to the pleasantness of music.

On the other hand, hyperbole always uses exaggeration to emphasize a point. For instance, saying "That man is a monster" not only uses a metaphor to compare the man to a monster, but also uses hyperbole to exaggerate his terrible nature.

Hyperbole vs. Similes

Similarly, a simile is a figure of speech that compares two things using words like "like" or "as". Again, it should not be taken literally, but it can sometimes use hyperbolic language. For example, saying "We are like two peas in a pod" is an imaginative way of describing the closeness between two people.

A simile that uses hyperbole would be something like "The person in front of me walked as slowly as a tortoise". This not only compares the person's walking speed to that of a tortoise, but also uses exaggeration to emphasize their slowness.

Hyperbole - What You Need to Know

To sum it up, hyperbole is a technique that uses exaggeration to emphasize a point or evoke intense emotions. It is commonly used in everyday conversation and literature. However, it is crucial to note that while hyperbole, metaphors, and similes all use figurative language, they are not always interchangeable. Hyperbole always uses exaggeration, while metaphors and similes may only use it occasionally.


  • Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore, 2005.
  • Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 1999.
  • Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, 2017.

The Power of Hyperbole

Hyperbole is a literary device that utilizes the art of exaggeration to convey a powerful message or evoke strong emotions. It's essential to understand that hyperbole should not be taken literally, but rather, it's a tool used to create a dramatic effect. For instance, the statement "this is the worst day of my life" is a classic example of hyperbole as it magnifies the significance of a bad day.

Mastering the Use of Hyperbole

To effectively incorporate hyperbole in writing, it's crucial to remember that it's all about exaggeration for impact. This can be achieved in various ways, such as saying "I've been waiting for a million years". This sentence employs a deliberate exaggeration to emphasize the feeling of enduring a lengthy wait.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime