[n] understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary); "saying `I was not a little upset' when you mean `I was very upset' is an example of litotes"
\Li"to*tes\, n. [NL., fr. Gr. ?, from ? plain, simple.] (Rhet.) A diminution or softening of statement for the sake of avoiding censure or increasing the effect by contrast with the moderation shown in the form of expression; as, `` a citizen of no mean city,'' that is, of an illustrious city.