Definitions

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

  • transitive verb To state with less completeness or truth than seems warranted by the facts.
  • transitive verb To express with restraint or lack of emphasis, especially ironically or for rhetorical effect.
  • transitive verb To state (a quantity, for example) that is too low.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To state or represent less strongly than the truth will admit; state too low: as, to understate an evil.
  • To say less than the full truth.

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

  • transitive verb To state or represent less strongly than may be done truthfully.

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

  • verb to state something with less completeness than needed; to minimise or downplay.
  • verb to state something with a lack of emphasis, in order to express irony.
  • verb to state a quantity that is too low.

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

  • verb represent as less significant or important

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

under- +‎ state

Examples

  • You spend your life railing against central economic planning, and you need a conspiracy theory to explain why an economic projection was wrong? should be "understate," or "underestimate."

    Center for American Progress Action Fund

  • Most religious switching occurs before the age of thirty, but to the extent that switching also occurs later in life, these comparisons tend to understate the long-term rise in switching, since the cohorts born late in the twentieth century have had less time to switch than those born earlier.

    American Grace

  • It took King Henry VIII's want of a divorce and Martin Luther's offense at the Pope's transgressions to prompt the translation of the religious scriptures into English and German, which is not to ignore or understate similar problems with the Holy Bible, the core document of the Latin Church, which had its own linguistic odyssey making its way from the mystery of the Classic Greek to the vulgarity of common understanding.

    Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: The Future Depends On What The Meaning of "Was" Was

  • In what ways do these data overstate or understate the degree of upward mobility in the economy?

    Squeezed Up, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • It took King Henry VIII's want of a divorce and Martin Luther's offense at the Pope's transgressions to prompt the translation of the religious scriptures into English and German, which is not to ignore or understate similar problems with the Holy Bible, the core document of the Latin Church, which had its own linguistic odyssey making its way from the mystery of the Classic Greek to the vulgarity of common understanding.

    Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa: The Future Depends On What The Meaning of "Was" Was

  • 'I understate my case to say that it is one of the most shallow speeches by a supposedly serious politician that I have ever read.

    David Cameron speech strikes fear into flinty heart of Simon Heffer

  • I continue to agree with Hall and Murphy, who argue that firms use stock options to understate employee costs.

    Stock Options as Tax Deferral, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • In other words, to say only that Warmers are greatly exaggerating the impact of carbon dioxide to global warming is to understate the extent of their deceit.

    Global warming news

  • According U.S. government data, China's holdings of Treasury securities totaled $1.159 trillion at the end of May, although those estimates are thought to understate the true total.

    Beijing Defends Strategy on Foreign-Exchange Reserves

  • Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods Inc., a company that provides pizzas to schools, said it opposes the USDA plan because it would "understate the amount of tomato products…actually consumed."

    Lawmakers Step Into Food Fight Over Pizza

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