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litotes

Definitions

  • WordNet 3.6
    • n litotes 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"
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Litotes (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; a form of understatement; as, “ a citizen of no mean city,” that is, of an illustrious city; or, “not bad”, meaning “good”.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n litotes In rhetoric, a figure in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary. Thus, “a citizen of no mean city” means one “of an illustrious city.”
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Litotes lit′ō-tēz (rhet.) an affirmation made indirectly by the negation of its contrary, as 'a citizen of no mean city'='of an illustrious city.'
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Etymology

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
NL., fr. Gr. lito`ths, from lito`s plain, simple
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Gr. litotēs, simplicity—litos, plain.

Usage

In literature:

Litotes, 375, 1. littera, litterae, 61.
"New Latin Grammar" by Charles E. Bennett
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