litotes

litotes

[lahy-tuh-teez, lit-uh-, lahy-toh-teez]
noun, plural litotes. Rhetoric.
understatement, especially that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all.”
Compare hyperbole.


Origin:
1650–60; < Neo-Latin < Greek lītótēs orig., plainness, simplicity, derivative of lītós plain, small, meager

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litotes (ˈlaɪtəʊˌtiːz)
 
n , pl -tes
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."
 
[C17: from Greek, from litos small]

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Word Origin & History

litotes
Gk. litotes, from litos "smooth, plain, small, meager."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

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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