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.

Examples of Litotes

Hmm, that’s not bad. (= that is pretty good)

There’s not a lot. (= there is almost none)

He’s not wrong. (= he is right)

It wasn’t the best use of my time. (= I thought it was a waste of my time)

This is not unlike the time I went to Rome. (= this is similar to the time I went to Rome)

She’s not the smartest girl in the class. (= she is a bit stupid)

He isn’t the thinnest. (= he is quite fat)

They aren’t the fastest. (= they are slow)