American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite, as in This is no small problem.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In rhetoric, a figure in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary. Thus, “a citizen of no mean city” means one “of an illustrious city.”
- n. rhetoric A figure of speech in which the speaker emphasizes the magnitude of a statement by denying its opposite; a figure of speech in which understatement is used with negation to express a positive attribute; a form of irony
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Rhet.) A diminution or softening of statement for the sake of avoiding censure or increasing the effect by contrast with the moderation shown in the form of expression; a form of understatement.
- n. understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)
- From Ancient Greek λιτότης (litotēs), from λιτός (litos, "simple"). (Wiktionary)
- Greek lītotēs, from lītos, plain; see lei- in Indo-European roots. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“At first called litotes or meiosis, such understatement came to be called irony, at least by the end of the sixteenth century.”
“This construction is technically called litotes; it's a form of deliberate understatement that is often used comically.”
“A factually accurate restatement of my position, but a kind of litotes, like saying Lucy Liu is not very hideous at all.”
“Belated kudos to ricky p., on that splendid "litotes" analogy.”
“I'm not obscenely uneducated, but I had to look up "litotes".”
“They could be employing the subtle literary device of "litotes".”
“For readers too young to remember Dangerfield, that's not litotes.”
“In a rare experiment with litotes he said: We could have bowled better; we should have bowled differently.”
“After all, Noir Nick's weapons are indeed his merciless use of sarcasm, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire, along with the gift and command of True Poetry.”
“The graph below illustrates that incidents of anti-social behaviour have fallen minimally; and that ignores that many incidents are never reported and that crime statistics are, shall we say, often an exercise in litotes.”
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