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Literature Glossary

Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.

Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.

Hyperbole

Definition:

Hyperbole is completely over-the-top exaggeration or overstatement—and one that's easily recognizable to readers. Like, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" or "Ryan Gosling is so hot, I would jump into a giant pit of flaming snakes for him!" Okay, that last one might not be hyperbole; we just might do that if we had a shot at Ryan Gosling.

Hyperbole can be humorous or serious. That is, you can find hyperbole in comedy (making us laugh) or in tragedy and drama (emphasizing the seriousness of the situation).

For examples of hyperbole in literature, see our analysis of Frank O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died", Claudio's language in Much Ado About Nothing, or our analysis of William Wordsworth's poem "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802."