Definition of litotes in English:


Syllabification: li·to·tes
Pronunciation: /ˈlītəˌtēz, ˈlit-, līˈtōtēz


Ironical 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).
More example sentences
  • Yet this definition fails to explain instances of litotes, or understatement, which is often classified as a kind of irony.
  • First one must register his anti-Idealism, his antipathy toward the idea becoming metonymical litotes for such.
  • But, if we follow Schwarzbach, Dickens's description of the street mire in Holborn is, if anything, understated - ‘mud’ is not hyperbole, but litotes.


late 16th century: via late Latin from Greek litotēs, from litos 'plain, meager'.

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