Usually the word exaggerate refers to an overstatement of a situation. E.g.

It's a furnace in here!

Is an exaggeration when the room is 78 degrees F.

But if I wanted the opposite of such an exaggeration (that is to say, an understatement instead of an overstatement), what would you call it instead of an exaggeration? For example, if there is a heat wave outside and over 110 degrees F, then

It's a little warm today.

Would be a gross understatement, but it would be wrong to call it an exaggeration.

  • 3
    What aspect of this concept is not already covered by "understatement"?
    – dubious
    Jul 11, 2022 at 20:39
  • 1
    Are you just looking for sarcasm?
    – Jim
    Jul 11, 2022 at 20:40
  • 1
    Ok so “downplayed”…
    – Jim
    Jul 11, 2022 at 20:48
  • 1
    I intended to find out whether that was what you were looking for before I wasted effort. So… is it what you were looking for?
    – Jim
    Jul 11, 2022 at 20:51
  • 1
    What @dubious says. Saying "It's a little warm today" converts it to a deliberate understatement, whereas "It's warm today" is simply a mild way of saying it. Jul 11, 2022 at 20:53

2 Answers 2


If you're looking for the formal term from rhetoric, try meiosis.

From Wikipedia:

In rhetoric, meiosis is a euphemistic figure of speech that intentionally understates something or implies that it is lesser in significance or size than it really is. Meiosis is the opposite of auxesis, and is often compared to litotes. The term is derived from the Greek μειόω (“to make smaller”, "to diminish").

  • This does look like what I'm looking for, but I will give others time to answer before making the judgement that this is the best answer.
    – uberhaxed
    Jul 11, 2022 at 22:19

The best term remains understatement:

Merriam Webster
a statement that represents something as smaller or less intense, or less important than it really is.

Hence we have the Monty Python sketch that includes the Army officer who has just lost his leg. When asked how he feels, he looks down at his bloody stump and responds, "Stings a bit."

So, "it's a little warm", when the temperature is 115 F, is an understatement of the true temperature.

If you choose to go even further and interpret "It's a little warm" as a negative statement such as "it's not really hot", the usage might be described as litotes.

understatement, especially that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all.”

This definition fits your example but Cambridge emphasises that litotes is usually (although not always - see the Dictionary.com definition) used with negatives intended as positives.

the use of a negative statement in order to emphasize a positive meaning, for example "a not inconsiderable amount of money (= a considerable amount of money)"

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