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(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.
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, 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

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(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 ?
The highpoint of the account of Waterloo is not a celebration of Wellington but the portrait of Napoleon, described as "the greatest, nor the worst of men," in Byron's own odd litotes.
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.
Professors Berger, Corbett, and Connors identify the classically identified tropes as metaphor, simile, synecdoche, and metonymy; puns; antanaclasis (or repetition of a word in two different senses); paronomasia (use of words that sound alike but have different meanings); periphrasis (substitution of a descriptive word for a proper name or of a proper name for a quality associated with the name); personification; hyperbole; litotes (deliberate use of understatement); rhetorical question; irony; onomatopoeia; oxymoron; and paradox.
The double parallel of these lines underscores the technique of understatement, or litotes, that Bale unexpectedly employs in referring to the Catholic Church's 'making' of Protestant martyrs, a process usually achieved through particularly violent forms of torture and death.
Panurge and Epistemon run after and collect the leaves, but this "non sans grand labeur" ("not without great effort") (389; Frame 307), a litotes that floats on the surface of the text to point to the difficult work of interpretation to be recounted in the following chapter.
Ponderense, por ejemplo, los dos siguientes quiasmos: piensa que no seria capaz de dar buenas razones en una mala causa ([seccion]42, 46) y es imposible hacer abiertamente un beneficio sin recurrir al engano ([seccion]43, 48), en la primera, contribuye en el proceso argumentativo que desbarata la credibilidad de Cleon como consejero del Estado, en el segundo, recrimina a la Asamblea Ateniense de manera hiperbolica sus malas practicas politicas, que previamente han sido introducidas con una litotes (a causa de su excesiva sutileza), con la que califica a este organo politico.
2) Oppen and Gluck poeticize prayer under the sign of litotes, or understatement, and Wright does so, like Hopkins, with rhetorical opulence; if their poems restrain trope and anthropomorphism, his abound with extravagant, almost baroque figurations of landscape, affect, and an absent God; if theirs approximate silent or mental prayer, subduing verbal music, his are written in strongly cadenced lines rich with sonic patterning.
There are also innumerable speech acts: hyperbole, litotes, antinomy.
Un hada de la fraternidad"); la definicion negativa por litotes ("No, no frunza el ceno, no es cumplido, es caracterizacion escueta"); el tono conclusivo cerrando un parrafo, periodo o serie enumerativa, el abundante uso del polisindeton; los periodos oracionales largos; la presencia de sentencias ("el dia es la razon"); el gusto por la definicion clarificadora, para explicitar un pensamiento y darle rotundidad ("Toda habitacion de hotel decente es una isla") o la suspension, elegida para mantener en vilo el animo del espectador al caracterizar a un personaje, cuando se pone de manifiesto su mundo interior y ello implica dificultad para mostrarlo, etc.
His elaborate declaration ends on a line which is plainly indebted to the understated "heroic irony" of the litotes so prevalent in Beowulf (Chickering, Beowulf 10).
The exposition ends on the sarcastic litotes of "something might happen.