Hyperbola – Rhetorical style means

What is a hyperbola?

Related imageThe hyperbola (from ancient Greek “hyper bállein” = throw beyond the target, surpass) is a rhetorical stylistic device that belongs to the word characters. Their hallmark is the emphasis on exaggeration . Because the hyperbola can move in the vicinity of irony, it is occasionally attributed to the tropics .

What are tropics?

Tropics is the generic term for a number of stylistic devices . In a trope (also: Tropus) is always an improper and pictorial expression. The meaning is not directly formulated, but replaced by another linguistic phrase. This comes either from the immediate vicinity or from another area of ​​imagination. It is used to make what is said more vivid and lively or to decorate a speech.

The term derives from the Greek tropos = turn . Even in Greek antiquity, tropics were popular as a means of rhetoric or stylistics. They were separated from each other and individually defined. The tropics include allegory , antonomatism, emphasis, euphemism , hyperbole, irony , catachesis (dead metaphor), Litotes , Metalepse, metaphor , metonymy , periphrase, personification , riddles, sarcasm, and synekdoche .

It is closely related to a form of the Litotes , namely the emphasis on understatement and attenuation. The hyperbole, however, accomplishes the goal by the opposite means: to emphasize a fact, it exposes it and pushes it to the extreme. The Duden cites as examples “heavenly” and “like sand by the sea”.

Hyperbole and metaphor

Often the hyperbola appears in the form of a metaphor . The two rhetorical stylistic devices reinforce each other in their impact and expressiveness.

In metaphor, a description is transferred from one conceptual world to another, e.g. B: “He is my rock in the surf.” The image of the rock on which the waves break stands for strength and imperturbability.

When the metaphor and the hyperbola are interlinked, the characteristic of exaggeration is added: “He is my Hercules.” Here too there is a picture, the Greek legendary figure of Hercules, representative of power and attitude (metaphor). The fact that the selected mythological figure is a demigod with superhuman abilities serves to reinforce and enhance the image (hyperbola).

The hyperbole in everyday usage

In everyday language, the hyperbola can be used to lend particular emphasis to a statement. That is why she often appears in disputes and is used to underline allegations and criticism.

Hyperbole in everyday language (communication of criticism)

  • “I’ve told you that a hundred times.”
  • “Do you always have to go at a snail’s pace?”

Those who speak particularly colorful, emotional and expressive also like to use hyperbole.

Hyperbola in everyday language (further examples)

  • “I’m so tired I could fall asleep standing up.”
  • “She spewed poison and bile in anger.”

The hyperbole in the literature

Related imageThe hyperbola can not only exaggerate a situation, but also represent it particularly visually rich, emotional and expressive. That is why it is naturally very common in literary texts. They are found in all literary genres.

In literary epochs , which give great importance to the depiction of moods and emotions, she is particularly popular.

storm and stress

In the Sturm und Drang , she expresses lively feelings such as passionate infatuation or enthusiastic enthusiasm for nature.


“She has a melody she plays on the piano, with the power of an angel.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, 1774

“Blossoms are coming from each branch / And a thousand voices / from the bushes”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Mailied, 1774


In romance , she illustrates enthusiastic emotion and religious worship.


“How sweet were the sweet words. As he spoke, the expression of the dark blue eye increased, and every flash of lightning poured a stream of glow into my heart. ”
E. Th. A. Hoffmann, Don Juan, 1813

“The works of this William […] are so delicate, delicate, keen, and alive, that one should almost believe they were made by the hands of the angels, and they quake at the sight of them.”
Clemens Brentano, The Chronicle of the Pupil, 1818


In expressionism , the hyperbola often portrays the gigantomania of the big cities. It also serves to describe traumatic experiences and illnesses.


“The church bells tremendous number / Waltz to him from black towers sea”
Georg Heym, The God of the City, 1910

“Here this bleeds like thirty bodies”
Gottfried Benn, husband and wife walk through the Krebsbaracke, 1912

The hyperbole in advertising

Advertising thrives on presenting the advertised in the best light. That is why the hyperbola is often used here. The truthfulness of a slogan is often secondary to its function of promoting a product and highlighting it to the competition. The brand claims high C, their orange juice is “as important as the daily bread”. The private TV broadcaster Kabel eins prides itself on broadcasting »the best films of all time«, while the public-law NDR confidently calls itself »the best of the north«.

The proximity of hyperbole to irony plays a special role nowadays. Twentieth century advertising messages such as “Wash so white, it does not get any whiter” (Dash) are no longer a serious selling point for oversaturated consumers of the present day.

On the contrary, a brand can score points with its uncompromising self-portrayal and ironic refraction. When childrens surprise “on behalf of eternal youth and happiness” is on the way, the wording proves winking distance. A brand that admits in this way the unfulfillability of extreme product promises even acts sympathetic and confident.

Further examples from the advertisement

  • »Do not just wash clean, but clean« (Ariel)
  • “To enjoy infinitely” (Amicelli)
  • »Driving in its most beautiful form« (Porsche)
  • »We are the good guys« (ProMarkt)
  • “Good is not good enough for us” (Hertie)
  • Everything is possible (HP)