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[lahy-tuh-teez, lit-uh-, lahy-toh-teez] /ˈlaɪ təˌtiz, ˈlɪt ə-, laɪˈtoʊ tiz/
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 of litotes
1650-60; < New Latin < Greek lītótēs orig., plainness, simplicity, derivative of lītós plain, small, meager Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for litotes


noun (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."
Word Origin
C17: from Greek, from litos small
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for litotes

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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