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When you are expressing something in an exaggerated and ironic way, often to prove a point, can you say that you are hyperbolizing? Could it be used in a way where you could end the statement with it? For example: “No, I'm just hyperbolizing (but there’s some truth to it)”.

Any synonyms for this?


2 (of language) deliberately exaggerated.

(Oxford Dictionary)

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Since it's in the dictionary, I don't see why not. – Peter Shor Sep 26 '12 at 11:34
To exaggerate is a perfectly suitable verb for this purpose, I think. – Alexander Kosubek Sep 26 '12 at 12:41
I hyperbolize all the time, but I always say {I'm / I was} being hyperbolic. I don't like the sound of I'm hyperbolizing. Strictly a style choice. – user21497 Sep 26 '12 at 13:00
I rather like the ring of “Of course, I hyperbolise…”! It’s a rare word, as @Barrie’s answer points out; but since its construction is so transparent, being rare won’t make it obscure to people. – PLL Sep 26 '12 at 13:29
up vote 12 down vote accepted

You can. The verb hyperbolize has been so used since the end of the sixteenth century, although the OED says it is now rare.

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Where does it say it's rare? OED: hyperbolic. – citizen Sep 26 '12 at 16:40
@citizen -- "hyperbolic" has other connotations in mathematics, science, and engineering. That usage is not rare, and rather quite common. The verb form, "hyperbolize," is much rarer, and I've never seen it used in the context of math, etc. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 26 '12 at 17:59
@citizen: It's not hyperbolic that's rare, but hyperbolize, and hyperbolic is in any case an adjective. By the way, your link is not to the OED. The OED requires subscription: oed.com – Barrie England Sep 26 '12 at 18:28
Actually, in my experience, hyperbolic (used in the sense related to hyperbole) is exceedingly rare. Much rarer than the use of hyperbolize. Maybe this is an American thing. But I would say hyperbole is most common, hyperbolize is less common but still not rare, and hyperbolic is just plain rare. Yes, they are all different parts of speech, but the point is you can construct your phrasing to use any of those, and I find "you're hyperbolizing* much more common than you're being hyperbolic. – John Y Sep 27 '12 at 14:14
My above comment was from personal experience; I now also have a bit of independent support. See edit to my answer. – John Y Sep 27 '12 at 14:35

Can you say “hyperbolizing”?

Yes, you can, but it would always be being done "for effect". The usage would be well enough understood by many people but it is extremely unusual.

To do so in a formal context would be unwise as what my be an attempt at humour could well be mistaken for an unsuccessful attempt to appear erudite.

A Google search returns the following results:

hyperbolizing - 24,300 hits
hyperbolising - 12,300 hits

both counts indicate minor use only, but enough to suggest a reasonable level of understanding of the term if it was used.

Google N Gram - ing is useful, but adding a few more comparison terms adds perspective.


or smoother

Adding "overstating" and "exaggerating" buries "hyperbolizing" and "being hyperbolic" in the noise. ie the use may have increased in absolute terms, in recent decades, but it is still very rare. It would be interesting to know what influence using Google Books as a reference source has on the result.

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That's what I wanted to know. If the reader would feel like I'm trying show off or whatever. I want a fairly neutral word for this. We have a great word for it in Swedish. With English though, I can only read the definitions in the dictionary, but never have an idea of how the word actually "feels". – citizen Sep 26 '12 at 16:45
Please add a link to the stats – jwpat7 Sep 26 '12 at 17:48
Sure, hyperbolizing is rare compared to exaggerating. But is it so rare as to warrant special mention of its rarity in a dictionary? If OED doesn't mention that hyperbolic (in the sense related to hyperbole) is rare, then why should hyperbolize be specifically pointed out as rare? My contention is that the OED is outdated regarding hyperbolize. – John Y Sep 27 '12 at 19:46

To amplify Peter Shor's comment: For all I can tell, this is a perfectly normal, acceptable, and not unusually rare word. I don't have any citations to refute the claim that "this is now rare" but I can say that I hear this word reasonably frequently, and common dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster (same link given by Peter Shor) and my American Heritage (dead-tree volume) don't mention anything about obsolescence or rarity or indeed anything cautionary at all. Frankly, I don't see any reason to avoid this word, even for formal use.

Edit: OK, I now have something more than my personal experience to share regarding the relative rarity of hyperbolize. According to this Google n-gram, hyperbolizing in recent times has been pretty strongly beating out being hyperbolic. (Which should come as no surprise, because hyperbolize is a more compact but no less clear way to express the idea.) Also, notice the sharp rise in use from about the 1970s. For about a century before that, it was indeed moribund; perhaps the OED is simply several decades behind the times.

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We should let the OED know about "this is now rare", and while at it, audioenglish (english.stackexchange.com/questions/83852/…) as well. – Kris Sep 27 '12 at 6:24

It is more common to say use hyperbole, not hyperbolize.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we are referring to the particular literary/ rhetoric device called hyperbole.

Familiarity information: HYPERBOLIZE used as a verb is very rare.

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