Definitions for litotesˈlaɪ təˌtiz, ˈlɪt ə-, laɪˈtoʊ tiz
This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word litotes
Random House Webster's College Dictionary
li•to•tesˈlaɪ təˌtiz, ˈlɪt ə-, laɪˈtoʊ tiz(n.)(pl.)-tes.
understatement, esp. that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all.”
Ref: Compare hyperbole.
Origin of litotes:
1650–60; < NL < Gk lītótēs orig., plainness, simplicity, der. of lītós plain, meager
understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)
"saying `I was not a little upset' when you mean `I was very upset' is an example of litotes"
A figure of speech in which the speaker emphasizes the magnitude of a statement by denying its opposite; a figure of speech in which understatement is used with negation to express a positive attribute; a form of irony
Origin: From λιτότης, from λιτός.
a diminution or softening of statement for the sake of avoiding censure or increasing the effect by contrast with the moderation shown in the form of expression; as, " a citizen of no mean city," that is, of an illustrious city
In rhetoric, litotes is a figure of speech in which understatement is employed for rhetorical effect, principally via double negatives. For example, rather than saying that something is attractive, one might merely say it is "not unattractive". Litotes is a form of understatement, always deliberate and with the intention of emphasis. However, the interpretation of negation may depend on context, including cultural context. In speech, it may also depend on intonation and emphasis; for example, the phrase "not bad" can be said in such a way as to mean anything from "mediocre" to "excellent". The use of litotes is common in English, Russian, German and French. They are features of Old English poetry and of the Icelandic sagas and are a means of much stoical restraint. George Orwell complained about overuse of the 'not un...' construction in his essay "Politics and the English Language".
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