Definition - (Aka diminution)

Strengthening or weakening a statement by denying its opposite.

Example -
He was no ordinary John Doe
(i.e. He was an extraordinary John Doe)

Etymology -
The word derives from the Greek litos, small or meagre.

Oxford English Dictionary -
The word's first reference is from 1657; however, its first example citation is from 1727:
"The litotes or diminution, [is the peculiar talent] of ladies, whisperers, and backbiters."
(Pope, etc. Art of Sinking 115 )

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