un·​der·​state·​ment | \ ˌən-dər-ˈstāt-mənt How to pronounce understatement (audio) \
plural understatements

Definition of understatement

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 understatement— Irving 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

First Known Use of understatement

1799, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of understatement was in 1799

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Cite this Entry

“Understatement.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understatement. Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce understatement (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of understatement

: a statement that makes something seem smaller, less important, etc., than it really is
: the practice of describing things in a way that makes them seem smaller, less important, etc., than they really are


un·​der·​state·​ment | \ ˌən-dər-ˈstāt-mənt \

Kids Definition of understatement

: a statement that makes something seem smaller or less important or serious than it really is

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Spanish Central: Translation of understatement

Nglish: Translation of understatement for Spanish Speakers

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