Word: hyperbole

Pronunciation: hy-PƏR-bə-lee

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


I’m a little embarrassed to admit that today’s Word of the Week made it into my vocabulary list because I only recently discovered that I had been pronouncing it wrong since the first time I read it. Yes, for the longest time, I assumed this word was pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled: “HY-pər-bohl”. It wasn’t until after I downloaded the Elevate – Brain Training app to my iPad and started playing the Pronunciation game that I learned it’s actually pronounced “hy-PƏR-bə-lee”, and while I did feel a tad foolish for getting that wrong, the feeling was overshadowed by my fascination with the sound of the word. So I looked it up, and sure enough, it turned out to be a rather fitting word for my stories. They do contain their fair share of wildly ridiculous statements!

“Hyperbole” refers to claims or statements that are exaggerated and thus shouldn’t be taken literally. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Greek noun huperbolē, meaning “excess” or “exaggeration”. This word is composed of the preposition hupér “above” and the verb bállō “to throw” (literally “I throw”).

Regardless of pronunciation, “hyperbole” is often a good word to describe grand statements made in fiction and in real life alike. We’re all guilty of exaggerating our claims from time to time, such as when we refer to a major failure as a “train wreck” or to a huge game loss as a “massacre”. I’m sure we all know at least a few people who constantly exaggerate their stories, those people whose accounts we can rarely trust but who often make great inspiration for the blowhards in our fiction. If your characters make a habit of stretching the truth for dramatic effect or as a rhetoric device, you may have plenty of “hyperbole” floating around in your stories! Have fun!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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