un·​der·​state | \ ˌən-dər-ˈstāt How to pronounce understate (audio) \
understated; understating; understates

Definition of understate

transitive verb

1 : to represent as less than is the case understate taxable income
2 : to state or present with restraint especially for effect

Examples of understate in a Sentence

He understated his taxable income. She's trying to understate the issue.
Recent Examples on the Web And these data likely understate the true death toll among Blacks caused by Covid-19 by at least ten percent, according to a recent study in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, based on the death rate from all causes. Bruce Bartlett, The New Republic, "Vaccine Hesitancy and the Long Shadow of Racism in U.S. Health Care," 26 Apr. 2021 Eurostat cautioned that the data might understate the damage the pandemic has caused though. Jana Randow, Bloomberg.com, "Drop in Euro-Area Unemployment Masks True Pandemic Damage," 8 Jan. 2021 The country is reporting more than 300,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths a day, although official figures understate the scale of the calamity. Washington Post, "Coronavirus has crushed India’s health system. Patients are on their own.," 27 Apr. 2021 The rate may also understate the degree of job loss a year into the pandemic, many economists say, because millions of American, particularly women, have dropped out of the labor force. Eric Morath, WSJ, "U.S. Economy Added 379,000 Jobs in February," 5 Mar. 2021 Vaccination figures could understate the total for doses administered due to reporting delays; numbers reported Friday were current two days ago, according to officials. Christopher Snowbeck, Star Tribune, "Minnesota reports 1,449 new COVID-19 cases, nine more deaths," 19 Mar. 2021 But researchers say numbers released by the state dramatically understate the prevalence of B117 in Connecticut, due to a relative scarcity of labs conducting the sequencing necessary to detect the variant. Alex Putterman, courant.com, "Alarm growing as major COVID-19 variant now makes up more than a quarter of Connecticut infections," 10 Mar. 2021 To say that much of this, much of the residue of the larger project, was already apparent from the Whedon version is to drastically understate the case. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, "‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’: It’s Bigger, Longer, and Better Than the Original," 15 Mar. 2021 In combination, these distortions can materially understate or overstate the true profitability of a firm. Joel Litman, Forbes, "Wall Street Wrong Again: Goldman’s “Non-Profitable” Tech Index Is Not Vindicated By Volatility," 4 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'understate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of understate

1824, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about understate

Time Traveler for understate

Time Traveler

The first known use of understate was in 1824

See more words from the same year

Statistics for understate

Last Updated

18 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Understate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understate. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for understate



English Language Learners Definition of understate

: to say that (something) is smaller, less important, etc., than it really is

More from Merriam-Webster on understate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for understate

Nglish: Translation of understate for Spanish Speakers

Comments on understate

What made you want to look up understate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!