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litotes

[lahy-tuh-teez, lit-uh-, lahy-toh-teez] /ˈlaɪ təˌtiz, ˈlɪt ə-, laɪˈtoʊ tiz/
noun, plural litotes. Rhetoric
1.
understatement, especially that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all.”.
Compare hyperbole.
Origin
1650-1660
1650-60; < New Latin < Greek lītótēs orig., plainness, simplicity, derivative of lītós plain, small, meager
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for litotes

litotes

/ˈlaɪtəʊˌtiːz/
noun (pl) -tes
1.
understatement for rhetorical effect, esp when achieved by using negation with a term in place of using an antonym of that term, as in "She was not a little upset" for "She was extremely upset."
Word Origin
C17: from Greek, from litos small
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for litotes
n.

rhetorical figure in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its opposite, from Greek litotes, literally "plainness, simplicity," from litos "smooth, plain, small, meager," from PIE root *(s)lei- "slimy, sticky, slippery" (hence "smooth"); see slime (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for litotes

a figure of speech, conscious understatement in which emphasis is achieved by negation; examples are the common expressions "not bad!" and "no mean feat." Litotes is a stylistic feature of Old English poetry and of the Icelandic sagas, and it is responsible for much of their characteristic stoical restraint. The term meiosis means understatement generally, and litotes is considered a form of meiosis.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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