views updated May 09 2018

DOUBLE NEGATIVE. The use of two or more negatives in the same construction. There are two categories: (1) If the meaning is emphatically negative (I never said nothing to nobody), the construction is not part of STANDARD ENGLISH, though it is long-attested, and common in many varieties of the language. (2) If the meaning is rhetorically positive (She is not unintelligent: She is intelligent; You can't not respect their decision: You have to respect their decision; Nobody has NO friends: Everybody has some friends), the construction is part of standard English. Compare LITOTES. See NEGATION.

double negative

views updated May 18 2018

dou·ble neg·a·tive • n. Gram. a negative statement containing two negative elements (for example didn't say nothing). ∎  a positive statement in which two negative elements are used to produce the positive force, usu. for some particular rhetorical effect (for example there is not nothing to worry about!).