Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun 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.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.”

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun 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

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Greek lītotēs, from lītos, plain; see lei- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek λιτότης (litotēs), from λιτός (litos, "simple").

Examples

Comments

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  • "Well, this doesn't suck."

    September 23, 2007

  • Not a bad word. ;-)

    September 23, 2007

  • different from zeugma, apparently. Or do I mean ellipsis?

    June 19, 2008

  • Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

    September 29, 2010

  • Not difficult to remember :)

    July 22, 2012

  • "He was not exactly ugly (a litotes)."

    Oreo by Fran Ross, p 182 of the New Directions paperback

    October 7, 2015