litotes  litotes
 li-to'-tees from Gk litos, "plain, small, meagre"
Also sp. lyptote, liptote
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).
  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.

Related Figures
Related Topics of Invention

  Sources: Ad Herennium 4.38.50 ("deminutio"); Sherry (1550) 61 ("liptote," "extenuatio"); Peacham (1577) H2v; Putt. (1589) 195 ("liptote," "the moderatour"); Day 1599 84 ("liptote")

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
Please cite "Silva Rhetoricae" (

Trees | SILVA RHETORICAE | Flowers