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Title: Understatement  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Euphemism, Media manipulation, Meiosis (figure of speech), Nimism, Fritiof Nilsson Piraten
Collection: English Phrases, Public Relations Techniques, Rhetorical Techniques
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Understatement is a form of speech or disclosure which contains an expression of lesser strength than would be expected. Understatement may be employed for emphasis,[1] for humour, or ironically. This is not to be confused with euphemism, where a polite phrase is used in place of a harsher or more offensive expression, though understatement too can be used to moderate something that might seem harsh.[2]

The figure of speech used in understatement, litotes, is always deliberate.[1]

In English culture

Understatement is often associated with traditional English culture,[3] where it may be used for comic effect,[4][5] or may refer to the verbally calm English way of dealing with extreme situations.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^ "litotes". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Hübler, Axel (1983). Understatements and Hedges in English. John Benjamins Publishing.  
  4. ^ "Monty Python's Meaning of Life Script Part 1". Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  5. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, rev. 4th ed., Anonymous, 14:12, which notes that the quote is "probably apocryphal".
  6. ^ "The day 650 Glosters faced 10,000 Chinese". The Daily Telegraph. 20 April 2001. 
  7. ^  
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