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Noun: litotes  'lI-tu,teez or lI'tow,teez
  1. 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";
    - meiosis

Type of: rhetorical device, understatement

Encyclopedia: Litotes