[uhn-der-steyt-muh nt, uhn-der-steyt-]


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

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for understatement

Contemporary Examples of understatement

Historical Examples of understatement

  • 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.


    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

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

Culture definitions for understatement


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.