(redirected from Litote)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


(lī`tətēz'), figure of speech in which a statement is made by indicating the negative of its opposite, e.g., "not many" meaning "a few." A form of ironyirony,
figure of speech in which what is stated is not what is meant. The user of irony assumes that his reader or listener understands the concealed meaning of his statement.
..... Click the link for more information.
, litotes is meant to emphasize by understating. Its opposite is hyperbolehyperbole
, a figure of speech in which exceptional exaggeration is deliberately used for emphasis rather than deception. Andrew Marvell employed hyperbole throughout "To His Coy Mistress":

An hundred years should go to praise

..... Click the link for more information.



(1) The literary device of understatement, the opposite of hyperbole, used to intensify the descriptiveness and expressiveness of speech. Litotes involves the juxtaposition of two heterogeneous elements based on a common feature that is represented to a much lesser degree in the means of comparison than in the object of comparison. Examples include “a little man the size of a thumbnail” (N. A. Nekrasov), “a waist no thicker than a bottleneck” (N. V. Gogol), “the speed of a tortoise,” and “within arm’s reach.” Structurally, a litotes may take the form of a simile, metaphor, or epithet. A considerable number of turns of speech representing litotes are idiomatic (“money squeezed from a cat’s tears”).

(2) The replacement of an affirmative description with a negation of the contrary—for example, “not stupid” instead of “clever” or “I don’t object” instead of “I agree.”

References in periodicals archive ?
A rhetorical instrument is used by the text to refer to the citizenship test results, with a euphemism via litotes that skirts mentioning the pass/fail system and instead focuses on declaring that the citizenship candidates will be informed if they are successful passing the test.
For more on litotes in Beowulf especially, see Chickering pg 9-10.
45) Graf's notion (note 1) 20, that the litotes 'so abgeschwacht sie ist', misunderstands Suetonius here.
Or the concluding lines from "Voices Inside and Out": "The Brazilians say, 'In this country we have everything / we need, except what we don't have,'" which is such a sharp litotes.
Then, approaching his conclusion and citing lines from the 1971 edition of Grendel, Milosh briefly considers what he refers to as "Gardner's self-conscious parody of rhetoric" with reference to "alliterative phrases like 'fireforged' (167) and 'squeal and screech' (12); etymological reconstructions like 'bone-fire' instead of 'bonfire' (14), and litotes like 'I am no stranger here'" (56), an ironic understatement Grendel makes upon entering the hall of Hrothgar after years of earlier attacks.
Snead identifies the structure of negation in the rhetorical form of litotes (the negation of a negative state) and chiasmus, but he does not explain the ways in which negation accomplishes this fighting back.
1-2); (11) it then follows with an extremely elaborate rhetorical pattern, made up of anaphora, protracted parallelism (on one occasion of nine lines), litotes, and antithesis.
The judicious English rendering of litotes comes through well.
The predominant tropes of the heartland, by contrast, are understatement and litotes as well as a reluctance to make quick judgments divorced from action and commitment ("I'm from Missouri: show me
The phrasing is characteristic of Milton's style, but such instances of litotes often serve a local purpose that is not always obvious.
In this reading the poem seems to invoke litotes, the rhetorical trope of understatement familiar from the bumper sticker "One atom bomb can spoil your whole day," but the usual form requires a strong sense of the scale of the event against which the understatement plays.