understatement

noun

un·​der·​state·​ment ˌən-dər-ˈstāt-mənt How to pronounce understatement (audio)
plural understatements
1
: a statement that represents something as smaller or less intense, or less important than it really is : a statement that understates something
To say that I was surprised by this outcome would be an understatement. I was completely blindsided ….Russ Becker
It is an understatement to say that the Internet has made life far more convenient for staggeringly many people.Cass R. Sunstein
also : the act of understating something or the practice of making such statements
understatement of population growth
To say Britain isn't good at coping with snow would be to exercise British understatement. Catherine Mayer
We have been taught to value terseness and understatementIrving Howe
2
: the avoidance of obvious emphasis or embellishment : an understated condition, appearance, etc.
Sure, glamour is still the operative word regarding fashion, but where flamboyance once ruled, there is now understatement and classic elegance.Premiere
He capitalizes on his reputation for understatement by saving huge sonorities for significant occasions; as a result, his rare musical outbursts seem not so much theatrical as visceral, as if they were blows sustained in real time.Alex Ross

Examples of understatement in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web To say that the Caribbean Series has been a success so far is an understatement. Jorge Ebro, Miami Herald, 6 Feb. 2024 But at its very worst, armageddon could be an understatement. Ethan Millman, Rolling Stone, 31 Jan. 2024 To say the Ravens clinching the top seed in the AFC and the first-round bye in the playoffs with its blowout of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday couldn’t have come at a better time would be an understatement. Brian Wacker, Baltimore Sun, 4 Jan. 2024 Between losing his father and his company, to say Kendall is down on his luck would be a severe understatement. Hannah Jackson, Vogue, 4 Dec. 2023 To say the Carta news that broke over the weekend has caused a furor in the startup world is an understatement. Alexandra Garfinkle, Fortune, 9 Jan. 2024 In All-Purpose Household Cleaners Labeling The Pink Stuff as a viral sensation is an understatement. Hannah Rice, Rolling Stone, 5 Jan. 2024 The movie proceeds by way of hints and winks, understatements and elisions, that are part of a transaction between director and audience: with a word to the wise, the audience gets the idea of Lenny and Felicia that Cooper wants to put out. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 19 Dec. 2023 Still, that’s a long time in the auto world, and to say people are getting antsy waiting would be a huge understatement. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, 29 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'understatement.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1799, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of understatement was in 1799

Dictionary Entries Near understatement

Cite this Entry

“Understatement.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understatement. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on understatement

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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