“‘ell, Guv’nor, she’s really scrabbling around the bottom of the dictionary for it today, isn’t she?”

“For what?”

“For an ‘L word,’ that’s what. Litotes. What tha ‘ell is that?”

“Well, it ain’t your everyday, commonplace little English word, that’s for sure.”

And there you go: litotes – an ironic understatement that confirms an idea by negating its opposite.

You probably use this rhetorical device frequently; you just didn’t have a name for the thing until now. Litotes is what turns, “Wow, she’s gorgeous!” into, “Yeah, she’s not too hard on the eyes, is she?” Or “I’m okay,” into “I’m not dead, yet.”

How do you pronounce litotes? (Hint: It’s not a rucksack for your lies. Click the link to hear the word spoken aloud.)





Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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6 thoughts on “Litotes”

    1. You’re welcome!

      I think I may cover a few more this month – they’re quite fun. My degree is in Rhetoric & Writing, but by the time my kids were learning all about rhetorical devices, I’d forgotten names and definitions. Most we use without really thinking about them. Some are pretty obscure.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…LitotesMy Profile

  1. I get the daily email from Wordsmith – but I’m finding that, if I didn’t include a word in my vocabulary a long time ago, from reading, the new ones don’t stick.

    I understand them, but then forget them. Very occasionally I’ll remember that ‘there was a word for that.’

    I have a big vocabulary, but seem to have lost interest in increasing it – most people think I know too many big words already. ROI, probably. Not worth it to my brain any more.

    As long as I don’t lose what I already have, I’m not really worried (many of the Wordsmith ones are, well, not really necessary to know). When I start not being able to remember them in droves, I’ll start worrying. If I notice.

    We all get only 24 hours a day. Mine are already promised.
    Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt recently posted…Inconvenient ideas for your new novelMy Profile

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