Hyperbole – Figurative Language

Figurative language allows authors to change the meanings of words to paint a clear picture in their writing. It also make the writing more interesting for the readers.  So far in this series, we have talked about alliteration, similes and metaphors, and personification.  Another fun type of figurative language is hyperbole.


Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to add humor to a story.  For example, a person is using hyperbole when they say “I am so hungry I could eat a horse.”  Probably they are not physically capable of eating an entire horse, and they probably wouldn’t eat a horse even if they actually could.  But using that expression adds some humor to how hungry they are.  Kids love the pictures that pop into their heads when they read hyperbole.

Hyperbole in Books

One of the most common uses of hyperbole is in tall tales.  By definition tall tales have exaggerated characters who can do unusual things.  This means that the stories about these characters are full of hyperbole.  Two of my favorite tall tales have both been retold by author Steven Kellogg.  The first is Pecos Bill.  Pecos Bill is a cowboy who grows up to be extremely fast and strong.  The story is filled with fun exaggerations like the fact that he could aim well enough to shoot out a star.  Another fun tall tale is the story of Paul Bunyan, a lumberjack of gigantic size and strength.  He and his big blue ox, Babe, traveled across America doing amazing things (like gouging out the Grand Canyon).

Write Some Hyperbole? That’s the Best Idea Ever!!

After reading a tall tale or two, your child may be inspired to write their own tall tale.  Help them think of a character that is exaggerated in some way.  They may be super strong, super fast, or even super smart.  Then have them write some stories about how their hero uses their ability to solve a problem.  Children who like to draw may enjoy drawing pictures to go along with common hyperbole examples.  In the hyperbole we used above (I’m so hungry I could eat a horse), a child may draw a picture of a person attempting to take a bite out of a horse.  Either way, remember hyperbole is intended to be funny, so have fun with the process.

Hyperbole allows the author to add extra humor into the story in a creative way.  In the next post of our figurative language series, we will discuss understanding idioms.

Do you find yourself using hyperbole often?  How do you help your children recognize hyperbole in stories?

Elementary Reading Curriculum at Smart Tutor

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