What is the term for speaking well of an object, by identifying the negative attributes it has. ie 'Product A is non-poisonous, odor-free and not expensive'. 'Bill does not smoke or gamble'

  • 3
    It's called highlighting positive virtues by using negatives. I recommend you not do it too much, since you are generally better off using positive words to describe positive virtues, values, phenomena, people, and objects. When you say, for example, "There was no small crowd of people at the concert," people will understand you're using the figure of speech called litotes. Sometimes, however, you are better off saying, "There was an enormous crowd of people at the concert." As with most figures of speech, they should be employed to spice up your language, not overpower it. Aug 26, 2016 at 2:23
  • odor-free is not actually a negative attribute ;)
    – Helmar
    Aug 26, 2016 at 8:47
  • Odor-free..Ah..another subject indeed :).
    – Beadle2
    Aug 26, 2016 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


The closest to that definition that I see is actually a pair of phrases, not a term:

'...damning with faint praise'


'...backhanded compliment'

Each is used as a way to infer that there's nothing good to be said; a form of criticism.


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