Litotes is a figure of speech and a form of verbal irony.

It is a statement that employs understatement by using double negatives or, in other words, positive statement is expressed by negating its opposite expressions.

In the field of rhetoric, litotes is considered as a form of meiosis. Because of its use of understatement, litotes is similar to irony.

However, while irony pertains to the contrast between what appears to be said and what appears to be implied, litotes only relies on negation that may or may not create an ironic effect.

Let’s take a look.


What Is litotes

What Is litotes?

Litotes is a literary device in which understatement is used for emphasis. Litotes is a figure of speech that uses negative statements to express a positive idea.

It is similar to understatement, but it is a more specific form of negation, and therefore, it can be considered the opposite of hyperbole. The speaker negates the intended meaning in order to emphasize it.

Litotes has similarities to irony and sarcasm, yet, it does not have any hint of negativity or insult.

In fact, litotes can be used to give compliments as well as express disapproval or disappointment.



What Is Litotes?

A litotes is a figure of speech in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite.

The Latin word “litotes” means “plainness”, but in rhetoric it refers to understatement, and more specifically to the understatement of an affirmative quality by expressing it in terms of its opposite.

The literal translation of the Greek word “litotes” is an understatement. For example:

This film was not bad enough to leave.

The food was not good enough to eat.

He is not rich enough to buy that car.

A simple example is the phrase, “That’s pretty ugly” meaning “That’s extremely or exceptionally ugly”.

Litotes can be used as a rhetorical device, whereby an affirmative proposition is stated by negating its opposite; for example, “I’m not ungrateful” instead of “I am grateful.”

The latter formulation states the positive nature of the sentiment outright, while the former does so indirectly by denying that the opposite is true.

This has been used in some versions of the Lord’s Prayer, such as the Anglican version found in Rite II of the Book of Common Prayer. Litotes is a rhetorical device wherein an affirmative is expressed in negative terms.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth.”

Examples Of Litotes In Rhetoric

Litotes is a figure of speech that uses an understatement to express an affirmative or positive idea. It is often used in speech and writing as an elegant way to say “yes” or to agree with a negative statement.

Tropes are figures of speech that occur frequently in literature and are recognizable and familiar to most readers and listeners. A trope usually consists of a word or phrase that is not being used literally but rather as a metaphorical device.

Tropes can be divided into categories, including metaphors, similes, hyperbole and personification.

Metaphors compare the qualities of two unlike things, while similes directly compare two unlike things using the words “like” or “as.” Hyperbole is a figure of speech involving exaggerated statements not meant to be taken literally, such as “I’ve got a ton of homework tonight!”

Personification may be seen when an inanimate object is given human-like qualities; for example, “the wind whispered through the trees” or “the sun danced across the sky.”

A trope doesn’t have to fall into one category exclusively; it might contain characteristics from multiple categories. For example, alliteration falls under the category of assonance, which is a type of sound symbolism.

Literary devices are the tools that writers use to create mood and invoke emotion in their readers. In this article, we will look at a specific type of literary device called litotes.

Examples Of Litotes In Literature

Litotes is one of the most common figures of speech that is used in literature. Because it is so common, many people do not even realize that they are using it.

Texts often use litotes to replace a word or phrase with its opposite. A writer does this to express a strong sentiment about something without being overly positive or negative about it.

In other words, litotes can be a great way to avoid sounding too blunt or too nice about something.

Most people have heard the expression, “I’m not bad” before, but it does not always mean what it seems to mean. This can be confusing because the person who is saying this may actually be quite bad.

It is important to understand the meaning behind this statement in order to truly understand how litotes works and why it is used so often in literature.

For example, if someone were to say, “I’m not bad at math,” they may actually be quite good at math and just want to downplay their skill level for some reason. They probably wouldn’t go around bragging about how good they are at math, so they would prefer to use litotes instead of outright saying that they are “good” at math.

Examples Of Litotes In Screenwriting

If you are a screenwriter, at some point you’ve no doubt heard that you should try to avoid “telling” and instead “show.” While this is good advice in general, there are instances where it’s best to tell.

Telling is when the writer uses words rather than actions or visuals to move the story forward. Telling can be good in a scene because it can help focus the scene.

It can also be good for exposition and for avoiding clunky dialogue.

For example, there’s really no way around telling a bit of backstory about a character if there’s going to be a meaningful exchange between two characters. You need the audience to understand what’s being referenced before the conversation can take place.

Litotes is one of several tools that writers use to tell effectively without resorting to boring dialogue and cut scenes. Litotes is when a writer uses an understatement to make a point.

The term comes from the Greek words “litos” (meaning “simple, plain”) and “oide” (“to know”). An understatement is just when someone says something negative but in a positive way, so it actually sounds like a compliment or praise.


This makes the tone seem more like an offhand comment than something mean-spirited.

Examples Of Litotes In Film

Litotes are a rhetorical device used to create an understatement. They are characterized by the use of negative statements that seem to be positive.

Litotes are often used in writing and literature, but they can also be found in everyday speech.

The name comes from the Greek words meaning “simple” or “plain.”

Litotes are often used in place of hyperbole, a figure of speech that uses extreme exaggeration for emphasis. Litotes are similar to irony, but with a focus less on humor and more on creating a direct contrast between what is being said and what is understood by the reader.

The most common form of litotes consists of two negatives used together to make one affirmative statement. For example, “He was not unhandsomely tall” replaces the standard “He was tall” with an understatement that implies he was handsomely tall rather than just plain tall.

Another way of accomplishing this is with double negatives: “I can’t not believe he did that” instead of “I can’t believe.

Famous Examples Of Litotes In Disney Movie Lines

Like most other forms of writing, Disney movie lines are meant to communicate ideas and concepts to the audience. While some lines are written with a humorous tone and usually elicit laughter from the crowd, others are crafted as statements that have strong meanings.

Bambi (1942)

Litotes was first used in Bambi when the mother deer was trying to encourage her son about his first hunting experience: “You’ll be surprised what you can do.”

This line actually implied that the young Bambi would be able to take down the great stag which his father had failed to do.

In this situation, the mother deer was being modest but at the same time she wanted to give her son confidence before his first hunting experience.

The Lion King (1994)

In The Lion King, Simba was trying to convince his father Mufasa not to leave him alone: “You raised me, taught me everything I know.” This line showed Simba’s desire for Mufasa’s presence and how he felt abandoned despite being cared for all along by Mufasa.

Writing Litotes Effectively

Our lives are filled with irony, where something is the opposite of what you might expect. Litotes is a figure of speech that uses a double negative to make a positive statement.

For example, “she doesn’t have much of a clue” is an understatement–a litotes–for someone who knows nothing at all.

Litotes is most commonly used in literature, especially poetry and works that rely heavily on figurative language. It can be found in the Bible, and it’s common in the works of Shakespeare, Homer, and other authors throughout history.

In order for litotes to be effective it must be used correctly; otherwise you’ll end up with an unintentional understatement or even an unintentional insult. For example saying “you aren’t too awfully bad” would mean that you are actually awful which makes the speaker look foolish if they intended to compliment someone.

Litotes Probably Pop Up In Your Everyday Speech

One of the most common figures of speech is litotes, which is a kind of understatement that uses negative words to create a positive meaning. It’s the opposite of hyperbole, and it can be used in both positive and negative ways.

While you might say something like, “You don’t have much to work with,” or, “This isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” you’re using understatement to make your point. In this case, “little” and “bad” actually mean that there’s some potential.

If you’re in a good mood, you might say something along the lines of, “I’m not good at math,” when what you really mean is that you’re pretty good at math. That’s also an example of litotes.

Litotes can also be used for more negative purposes. If someone is trying to insult another person’s intelligence, they might say something like, “This is simpler than I thought it would be.”

The other person knows that they think they’re stupid or uncreative or whatever else they’re suggesting. You could even use it to your own advantage if someone seems upset with you by saying something like: “I didn’t mean any harm.” You might not have meant any harm but that doesn’t.

First Known Use Of Litotes

Litotes is a rhetorical device that uses an understatement to create a paradoxical effect. It may also be used to express an affirmative by negating its contrary.

Litotes is a common tool of irony, in which understatement is intended to emphasize what is being asserted.

Litotes can be found in the Bible, where it is used by both Jesus and Paul the Apostle.

This rhetorical device is so uncommon that it does not have a single name but has been referred to as understatements, negative-positive statements, double negatives, and ironical positives.

Some prefer to call it “semantically positive understatement” since understatement suggests an understatement of meaning when in fact litotes highlights what would otherwise be considered negative attributes or circumstances with a positive turn.

The word litotes (pronounced LYE-oh-tuhs) sounds like an oxymoron. How can something be a negative understatement?

The answer: It’s not a negative. Litotes is a form of irony, and it’s one of the more common figures of speech in the English language.

History And Etymology For Litotes

The word litotes comes from the Greek words for “plain” and “simple,” spelled “litos.” The ancient Greeks valued understatement, a rhetorical style of saying something by saying its opposite.

The Greek word for “rhetorical understatement” is litotes.

The word litotes first appeared in English in 1580, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, but it wasn’t listed as a separate word until 1721.

In that year’s edition of John Kersey’s “Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum,” the definition was given as “A figure in Rhetorick; where by a man affirms something, and denies its contrary; as it is expressed in Latin, by using the word ‘non’ after ‘quidem.’ In which way of speaking, whatsoever is said is affirmed, being negatived by the denial of what is denied.”

The concept dates back at least to Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), who used it as early as 350 B.C., according to the OED. A dictionary entry from 1656 also describes litotes as a rhetorical figure that uses negation to emphasize a positive statement.

Another term for litotes is meiosis, which means understating or understatement.

Litotes is a rhetorical device that is used to create an understatement, also known as an antiphrasis, by using a negative to express emphasis.

The word litotes is derived from the Greek word meaning “simple.” Litotes are mostly used in everyday conversation, but they can be used in written material as well.

Avoid Overuse Of Litotes

Another kind of overuse is Litotes which is the opposite of overstatement. This is a type of understatement where the speaker or writer states the opposite of what they mean by using double negatives.

For example you can say: “The room was not empty.” You are ignoring the negative. “The room was full.”You are emphasizing the positive.

For many years, I have been trying to avoid this overuse of Litotes and I have succeeded for a long time but, recently, I’m going back to my old habits and it’s not good.

Therefore, from now on, I’m going to make an effort to avoid this type of overstatement because it’s very annoying for your readers when you do it too much.

Here are some examples of Litotes in action:

“It’s not that bad.” You’re trying to be nice here but you’re actually insulting them with your words.

“It’s not all that exciting.” This is a fine example of being nice while being dishonest at the same time.

“He was not that big but he was tall.” Your eyes were bigger than your stomach because you ate so much food but you said nothing about it because you were too shy to admit it and now you are paying for it.

What Is Antenantiosis

Antenantiosis is a rhetorical device in which a person or object is described first as one thing and then as its opposite. For instance, an ant might be called “the most indolent of creatures.”

Antenantiosis may also be used to describe qualities that are generally accepted as opposites. In this case, the creature may be called “the most industrious of creatures.”

This figure of speech should not be confused with irony, which is a device that employs sarcasm. Irony involves saying the opposite of what you mean in order to convey your true meaning.

For example, if someone were to say “I love this movie,” but his face looked bored and unimpressed, that would be irony. In such a situation, the person’s facial expressions and words do not match.

The speaker could have said “I hate this movie” but chose to say the opposite instead.


Antenantiosis is often used by rhetoricians in order to create an impression or provide emphasis. However, it can also serve to create confusion because it seems like the speaker is saying something that he or she really doesn’t mean.

By using this rhetorical device, the speaker creates doubt about his or her meaning by making mutually exclusive statements.

Examples Of Litotes Throughout History

Most individuals tend to think that a litotes is something that is highly positive, but with a twist. In other words, it is the use of an understatement or negation in order to achieve a particular goal.

These types of phrases have been around for several years and can be traced back to ancient history.

Litotes has its roots in the ancient Greek language and was first used by Homer. The term literally means “simple” or “plain” and is often defined as a figure of speech that uses an affirmative statement in order to point out something negative about the subject being discussed.

This type of statement has been used by many famous people throughout history.

The literal meaning of litotes first appeared in Homer’s epic poem Iliad. There is a certain part in the story where Achilles is talking about his military prowess and says that while he might not be the best warrior on the battlefield, he is certainly not the worst either.

The statement therefore conveyed his arrogance through understatement.

In another instance, Socrates also used litotes when referring to his physical stature. When people asked him how tall he was, he would always respond that he was shorter than others were tall rather than simply short like.

Litotes Examples In Common Expressions

Although litotes is often used in literature, this figure of speech isn’t reserved for the classroom or the stage. Litotes can be found in everyday speech as well.

Truism and understatement are two phrases that are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. A truism is a statement that is obviously true and doesn’t need to be said, while an understatement is a statement that understates the obvious.

Litotes falls somewhere in between. Instead of using an obvious statement to make a point, litotes uses an opposite statement to understate the obvious. For example, a person might say: “You are not fat” to mean “You are thin.”

This type of figure of speech is also known as meiosis, which means “a decrease.” Litote examples are common throughout literature and speech because they help the writer or speaker make their point without directly saying so.

Litotes can be found in speeches, books and everyday conversation. The following examples illustrate how litotes works in various contexts:

“I am not going to say that I dislike your tie.” — Instead of saying “I hate your tie,” this example uses hyperbole (exaggeration) to let you know how you feel about your tie.

Litotes vs. Understatement And Double Negative

Three of the most commonly used figures of speech in English are litotes, understatement, and double negatives. They all have an effect on the tone and meaning of a sentence, although they are not always interchangeable.

Tone is a very important part of any written communication, especially when it comes to social media. Tone is conveyed not only through word choice but also by how you arrange those words and sentences. 

Litotes are often used to soften the statement and add emphasis to it by means other than changing the structure of the sentence itself. Litotes can also be used as sarcasm when combined with irony because it emphasizes something while denying its opposite.

Xerox is not exactly a household name anymore, but with 60% market share in fax machines back in 2001, it was pretty much synonymous with this technology for quite some time .

Significance Of Litotes In Popular Culture

Sarcasm is a type of irony that intends to insult or mock someone. Sarcastic remarks are delivered in an ironic tone which means that the actual message being conveyed is the opposite of what has been stated.

This form of speech is used to insult or show disdain for someone. It is often used in a phrase where the speaker tries to belittle the subject by saying something positive about it; this technique is known as litotes.

There are many people who use sarcasm in everyday conversations, but there are also those who do not understand it and take it at face value. One instance where sarcasm is commonly used is during television shows or movies.

When the audience knows that a character’s words do not reflect their true feelings, they can enjoy watching how the character behaves and what they say without having to take everything too seriously.

The significance of litotes in popular culture can be attributed to a number of reasons, some of which include:

It makes watching television and movies more enjoyable by removing the seriousness from conversations; this helps show how characters really feel about each other through the way they interact with one another.