What is the term for describing the following sort of phrases used to humoristically, and almost affectionately, describe someone who is obviously well known to be superb in their field?

Referring to a famous accomplished sports star: I guess you could say he's pretty good at throwing a ball.

Referring to a supermodel: Yeah, she's not too hard on the eyes.

Referring to a genius moviemaker: He's got some skills at spinning a tale.

These, as opposed to saying something straightforward such as:

Referring to a famous accomplished sports star: He's an amazing athlete and throws like no other.

Referring to a supermodel: Her beauty is unmatched in the world of modeling.

Referring to a genius moviemaker: The movies he's produced set the standard in the industry.


2 Answers 2


You might be looking for the word understatement. According to Merriam-Webster:

Understate(v): to state or present with restraint especially for effect

The "effect" in this case is often humorous.


What is the nature of the understating?

Is it intended as irony, in order to stress the greatness?

Or is it simply to diminish the person. If it is the latter there is a well-known idiom damning [someone] with faint praise.

  • In this case, I'm referring to an inverse usage to convey positive feelings such as humor and/or appeal.
    – eComEvo
    Jul 30, 2015 at 17:47
  • @eComEvo Well - that is irony. You are referring to them with irony.
    – WS2
    Jul 30, 2015 at 17:51
  • Sorry, I should not have said "inverse" since it is not quite to the level of irony I'm looking for.
    – eComEvo
    Jul 30, 2015 at 18:13

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