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An understatement is a figure of speech that has the effect (and sometimes, the purpose) of making something appear to be less important than it actually is. It is a core feature of British humour and comedy. In rhetoric, it is known as litotes.


  • This guy is in the whitehouse
  • Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.- Announcement on British Airways Flight 9Wikipedia, 1982
  • Our Peculiar Institution- Employed in the American South
  • You must take a longer view. The present hunger is temporary. In writing books you must have a longer view. It would be difficult to describe it as hunger.- Maxim Litvinov, Soviet Foreign Minister[1]
  • Conversely, once tile is penetrated SOFI [Spray-On Foam Insulation] can cause significant damage.- NASA engineers to the officials, on potential sources of problems in Space Shuttle Columbia.[2]

See also[edit]