Etymology
Advertisement

litotes (n.)

rhetorical figure in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary ("no laughing matter"), from Greek litotes "plainness, simplicity," from litos "smooth, plain," also "frugal, small, meager," and, of style, "simple, unadorned," from PIE root *(s)lei- "slimy, sticky, slippery" (hence "smooth"); see slime (n.).

updated on August 04, 2016

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of litotes from WordNet

litotes (n.)
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
Synonyms: meiosis
Etymologies are not definitions. From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.