Share this entry
litotes Line breaks: li|to¦tes
Pronunciation: /lʌɪˈtəʊtiːz/

Definition of litotes in English:


[mass noun]
Ironical understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g. I shan’t be sorry for I shall be glad).
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, meagre'.

Definition of litotes in:
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources