The litotes ( Greek λιτότης litótēs "thrift, restraint", from Greek λιτός litós "plain, simple") is the stylistic figure of double negation (e.g. not uncommon ) or the negation of the opposite (e.g. not uncommon ). This can be used, for example, to express a claim carefully or to weaken a statement ( understatement ). But emphasis can also be effected indirectly. The litotes often appear in the context of irony .
- "He's not wrong"
- "Not without a joke"
Negation of the opposite:
- "not few"
- "not bad"
A well-known example from English is not amused . For example, She is not amused literally means “She is not pleased”, but it tends to mean “She is angry”. The wording illustrates that a statement (“angry”) can be weakened by negating the opposite (“not pleased”). This makes it suitable for polite expressions, but also for ironic use.
A Latin example is non ignorare for “to know exactly” (from non , “not”, and ignorare , “to misunderstand”).
Examples from politics would be:
- "The exit from nuclear phase-out "
- "The exit from the exit from the exit"
- "Exit from Brexit"
In some languages, including German dialects, the double negative actually represents a negative:
- Our brother Melcher, who wanted to be a rider, if he didn't have a horse, he couldn't become one
- Des is koa sünd ned (Bavarian: This is no sin)
- Non è niente di serio (Italian: that is not nothing serious)
- Nemám nic (Czech: I don't have anything)