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Dictionary Meaning and Definition on 'Litotes'

Litotes Meaning and Definition from WordNet (r) 2.0
    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" [syn: meiosis]
Litotes Meaning and Definition from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
    Litotes \Li"to*tes\, n. [NL., fr. Gr. ?, from ? plain, simple.] (Rhet.) 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.
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Wikipedia Meaning and Definition on 'Litotes'

In rhetoric, litotes For example, rather than saying that something is attractive (or even very 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 appeals specifically to certain cultures including the northern Europeans and is popular in English, Russian 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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