What are litotes?

Litotes are a form of understatement in which a negative sentence is used to make a positive point. It often follows the patterns ‘it’s not + negative’ (a double negative) or ‘it’s not + superlative’.

Litotes can be used in many different situations. However, in speaking they are often for joking, being modest, and being cruel.


Litote exampleMeaning
Hmm, that’s not badThat is pretty good
There’s not a lotThere is almost none
He’s not wrongHe is right
It wasn’t the best use of my timeI thought it was a waste of my time
This is not unlike the time I went to RomeThis is very similar to the time I went to Rome
She’s not the smartest girl in the classShe is a bit stupid
He isn’t the thinnestHe is quite fat
They aren’t the fastestThey are slow