Word of the Day : May 23, 2016


noun LYE-tuh-teez


: understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary

Did You Know?

Even if you've never heard the word litotes, chances are you've encountered this figure of speech. If you've ever approved of a job well done by exclaiming "Not bad!" or told someone that you are "not unhappy" when you are ecstatic, you've even used it yourself. In fact, you might say that it would be "no mean feat" to avoid this common feature of our language! And litotes isn't only common; it's also simple—etymologically speaking, that is. Litotes evolved from a Greek word meaning "simple," and perhaps ultimately from another Greek word meaning "linen cloth."


"Vacationing in the Caribbean wasn't a total drag," said Sheila with her characteristic flair for litotes.

"Analysts and experts reached for metaphors, similes, allusions, litotes and anything else lying about to express their wonderment." — Wesley Pruden, The Washington Times, 31 Oct. 2003

Test Your Vocabulary

Fill in the blanks to create another word that refers to a type of understatement: m _ i _ _ is.



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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