litotes

[ lahy-tuh-teez, lit-uh-, lahy-toh-teez ]
/ ˈlaɪ təˌtiz, ˈlɪt ə-, laɪˈtoʊ tiz /

noun, plural li·to·tes.Rhetoric.

understatement, especially that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all.”

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Origin of litotes

First recorded in 1650–60; from New Latin, from Greek lītótēs “plainness, simplicity, understatement (in rhetoric),” derivative of lītós “smooth, plain, simple”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for litotes

litotes
/ (ˈlaɪtəʊˌtiːz) /

noun plural -tes

understatement for rhetorical effect, esp when achieved by using negation with a term in place of using an antonym of that term, as in "She was not a little upset" for "She was extremely upset."

Word Origin for litotes

C17: from Greek, from litos small
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