verb (used with object), un·der·stat·ed, un·der·stat·ing.
  1. to state or represent less strongly or strikingly than the facts would bear out; set forth in restrained, moderate, or weak terms: The casualty lists understate the extent of the disaster.

Origin of understate

First recorded in 1815–25; under- + state
Related formsun·der·state·ment [uhn-der-steyt-muh nt, uhn-der-steyt-] /ˌʌn dərˈsteɪt mənt, ˈʌn dərˌsteɪt-/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for understating

minimize, downplay, lessen, underrate, undervalue, devalue

Examples from the Web for understating

Contemporary Examples of understating

Historical Examples of understating

  • But is not this understating the case on the Episcopal side?

  • To say that Eva was in love with Reggie would be both overstating it and understating it.

    The Rubicon

    E. F. Benson

  • Perhaps after all the lawyers had done him by understating the amount his brother had left.

    Tales of Mean Streets

    Arthur Morrison

  • "They must be very unusual people," Malone said, understating heavily.

    Occasion for Disaster

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • And when I say it puzzled me like the dickens, I am understating it; if anything.

    Right Ho, Jeeves

    P. G. Wodehouse

British Dictionary definitions for understating


  1. to state (something) in restrained terms, often to obtain an ironic effect
  2. to state that (something, such as a number) is 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 understating



1824, from under + state (v.). Related: Understated (of fashions, etc., from 1957); understating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper