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[uhn-der-steyt-muh nt, uhn-der-steyt-] /ˌʌn dərˈsteɪt mənt, ˈʌn dərˌsteɪt-/
the act or an instance of understating, or representing in a weak or restrained way that is not borne out by the facts:
The journalist wrote that the earthquake had caused some damage. This turned out to be a massive understatement of the devastation.
Origin of understatement Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for understatement
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The dryness in his tone was a paragraph of comment on my understatement.

    Lone Star Planet Henry Beam Piper and John Joseph McGuire
  • He had made an understatement when he talked about "those people" dying.

  • Taken literally, however, it was an understatement of the facts and wholly insincere.

    Penrod Booth Tarkington
  • This is what the habit of understatement may bring us down to,—absolute inadequacy.

    Human Intercourse Philip Gilbert Hamerton
  • Many times was an understatement, Latham thought wretchedly.

    One Purple Hope! Henry Hasse
British Dictionary definitions for understatement


the act or an instance of stating something in restrained terms, or as less than it is
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for understatement

1799, from under + statement. Understated, with reference to clothing, is recorded from 1957.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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understatement in Culture

understatement definition

A form of irony in which something is intentionally represented as less than it is: “Hank Aaron was a pretty good ball player.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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