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An example of exaggeration would be: “I was walking along when suddenly this enormous dog walked along. It was as big as an elephant”. The dog may have been big, but it was certainly not as big as that. Another example of exaggeration would be: “I caught a fish as big as my house.”
Overstatement is another word that means almost the same thing. The opposite of overstatement is understatement.
A hyperbole (IPA:[haı'pɝ.bə.li]) is a type of exaggeration that is used in literature. It is a figure of speech. The opposite of hyperbole is hypobole, which is an understatement.
People exaggerate things because they have strong feelings about something. People may exaggerate to make people listen to what they say. They may do it to emphasize something. They may also exaggerate just to sound funny:
- ”I’ve heard that a million times”
- ”You’ve got a head the size of a pin”.
- "I just ran a million miles"
People may understate because they are being modest:
- “Thank you, yes, I suppose I may have helped a little” (in a situation where the person actually helped a lot).
- "Hyperbole" at Rhetoric.byu.edu; retrieved 2012-1-14.