litotes

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LITOTES [Stress: ‘lie-TOE-teez’]. In RHETORIC, a positive and often emphatic statement made by denying something negative, as when St Paul called himself ‘a citizen of no mean city’ (Acts 21:39). Common phrases involving litotes include in no small measure and by no means negligible. See MEIOSIS.

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li·to·tes / ˈlītəˌtēz; ˈlit-; līˈtōtēz/ • n. Rhetoric ironical understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g., you won't be sorry, meaning you'll be glad).

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litotes ironical understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g. I shan't be sorry for I shall be glad). Recorded from the late 16th century, the word comes via late Latin from Greek, ultimately from litos ‘plain, meagre’.

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litotes (rhet.) affirmative expressed by the negative of the contrary, as ‘a citizen of no mean city’. XVII. — late L. — Gr. lītótēs, f. lītós single, simple, meagre.

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