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Litotes

li-to'-tees / From Greek: litos, "plain, small, meagre"
Also spelt: lyptote, liptote
Also known as: antenantiosis, diminutio (deminutio), extenuatio, the moderatour

Deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite.

The Ad Herennium author suggests litotes as a means of expressing modesty (downplaying one's accomplishments) in order to gain the audience's favor (establishing ethos).

Examples:

It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain. —J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Running a marathon in under two hours is no small accomplishment.

If you want to see further details of either the figures of ethos, the figures of refutation or the figures of over-statement please click on the dark blue "Figures of ethos or/refutation or/overstatement" tag below.

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Acknowledgement

The above information on individual rhetorical techniques is reproduced from the website “Silva Rhetoricae” (www.rhetoric.byu.edu ) under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence. Credit for this content lies with Professor Gideon O Burton of Brigham Young University.