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Posted by Manjusha Filed in English Writing

The figure of speech called hyperbole is the extravagant exaggeration of fact or of possibility according to which a person or thing is depicted as being better or worse or larger or smaller that is actually the case. It may be used either for serious or ironic or comic effect.

  • Here is the smell of blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.
  • Why, man, if the river were dry, I am able to fill it with my tears.
  • Loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers
    Could not with all their quantity of love
    Make up the sum. (Hamlet by Shakespeare)


The contrary figure is understatement, which deliberately represents something as very much less in magnitude or importance than it really is, or is ordinarily considered to be. The effect is usually ironic.

An example is given below.

Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse. (A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift)



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