Hyperbole

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This article is part of the Figures of Speech course. You may choose to follow it in a structured way, or read each item separately.

Hyperbole is a formal word for what is more usually called exaggeration. "I've told you a thousand times", an exasperated parent may say. It is unlikely to be literally true. Therefore it is figurative language: it is a Figure of Speech. "I've told you tons of times" is doubly figurative: it is a hyperbole and a metaphor.

Hyperbole is a transliteration of the Greek word ὑπερβολή (huperbolē, 'throwing beyond others', 'overshooting', 'excess', and 'hyperbole'). It is pronounced with four syllables, and the stess falls on the second syllable: hy-PER-bul-ee.

The adjective is hyperbolic; the adverb is hyperbolically. Both are pronounced with the stress on the third syllable.

Note
This pattern of shifting stress in words that look identical but belong to two separate word classes is quite common in English. Quirk (1985) (Appendix I.56 B) remarks: "When verbs of two syllables are converted into nouns, the stress is sometimes shifted from the second to the first syllable. The first syllable, typically a Latin prefix, often has a reduced vowel /ə/ in the verb but a full vowel in the noun:
He was con-VICT-ed (IPA: /kən ˈvɪkt ɪd/) of theft, and so became a CON vict (IPA: /ˈkɒn vɪkt/)" (AWE's rendition of IPA).
There follows a list of some 57 "words having end-stress as verbs but initial stress as nouns in Br[itish] E[nglish]." Note that "in Am[erican] E[nglish], many have initial stress as verbs also". Quirk's list is the foundation of AWE's category:shift of stress. Additions have been made from, amongst others, Fowler, 1926-1996.