litotes (lĪˈtətēzˌ) [key], figure of speech in which a statement is made by indicating the negative of its opposite, e.g., "not many" meaning "a few." A form of irony, litotes is meant to emphasize by understating. Its opposite is hyperbole.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on litotes from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Literature: General