Definition of litotes in US English:



  • Ironic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g., you won't be sorry, meaning you'll be glad).

    • ‘But, if we follow Schwarzbach, Dickens's description of the street mire in Holborn is, if anything, understated - ‘mud’ is not hyperbole, but litotes.’
    • ‘First one must register his anti-Idealism, his antipathy toward the idea becoming metonymical litotes for such.’
    • ‘Next thing you know, they'll be using dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and… satire.’
    • ‘Yet this definition fails to explain instances of litotes, or understatement, which is often classified as a kind of irony.’
    • ‘The manager, a man adept in the use of litotes, said: ‘It wasn't the best game of pure football in the world.‘’
    minimization, trivialization, euphemism
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Late 16th century: via late Latin from Greek litotēs, from litos ‘plain, meager’.