Irony, Euphemism and Hyperbole

Irony, euphemism, and hyperbole are all figures of speech that add depth and meaning to language in different ways. Let’s explore each of these concepts:


1. Irony: Irony is a literary or rhetorical device in which there is a discrepancy between what is said and what is meant or expected. It often involves a contrast between appearance and reality, resulting in humor, satire, or a deeper understanding of a situation. There are three main types of irony:

– Verbal Irony: This occurs when a person says something that is the opposite of what they actually mean. For example, if someone says, “What a beautiful day” during a heavy rainstorm, they are using verbal irony.

– Situational Irony: This refers to a situation in which the outcome is different from what was expected. For instance, if a fire station burns down, it is an example of situational irony because one would expect a fire station to be well-equipped to handle fires.

– Dramatic Irony: This occurs when the audience or reader knows something that the characters in a story do not. It creates tension and suspense. For example, in a horror movie, when the audience knows the killer is hiding in the closet, but the character does not.

This refers to the art of saying one thing and meaning its opposite. An irony is either verbal or dramatic. The former means intentionally saying the opposite of what we mean. Examples:

(i) Ade studied hard, and so he failed his examination woefully

(ii) I saw a woman laughing for sorrow


Hyperbole: Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not meant to be taken literally. It is used for emphasis, humor, or dramatic effect. Hyperbole often involves extravagant and impossible exaggerations. For example:

– “I’ve told you a million times.”
– “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
– “The bag weighed a ton.”

Hyperbole is a common tool in poetry, comedy, and everyday language to add emphasis and create a vivid impression.

This is a gross exaggeration. Examples:

(i) When my father died, I spent three hundred and sixty billion naira on burial ceremony

(ii) I drank ten bucket of water yesterday

(iii) I swa a man who was taller than an Iroko tree


Euphemism: A euphemism is a mild or indirect word or phrase used in place of a harsh, offensive, or unpleasant one. It is employed to make something sound more positive, less embarrassing, or less disturbing. Euphemisms are often used to soften the impact of sensitive or taboo topics. For example:

– “Passed away” instead of “died”
– “Let go” instead of “fired”
– “Correctional facility” instead of “prison”
– “Vertically challenged” instead of “short”

Euphemisms can also be used for humor or irony, such as using phrases like “pre-owned” instead of “used” in the context of selling second-hand items.

This is the opposite of hyperbole. When the truth is disagreeable (unpleasant) euphemism endeavour to make it pleasing. Examples:

(i) She has kicked the bucket (meaning she died)

(ii) She has just put to bed (meaning giving birth to a new baby)

(iii) He is at rest (meaning he is dead)

(iv) The manager put the student in a family way (he impregnated the student)

In summary, irony involves a contrast between what is said and what is meant or expected, euphemisms are mild or indirect expressions used to replace harsh or unpleasant ones, and hyperbole is the use of exaggerated statements for emphasis or effect. These figures of speech enhance communication by adding layers of meaning, humor, or depth to language.


Give two sentences each to show the following figures of speech learnt in the lesson

  1. Irony
  2. Hyperbole
  3. Euphemism

See also:

Expository Essay


Adverbials and the Present Tense


Argumentative Essay

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