Litotes is a figure of speech in which a strong affirmative idea is expressed by the denial or negation of its opposite. Here, an affirmative statement can be made suggestive by means of the negation of its contrary. For example, when it is said, “A citizen of no mean city,” the real intern of the speaker is to point out, ‘A citizen of a great city.’ The opposite word of ‘mean’ is ‘great’, and the idea ‘great’ is suggested by putting one ‘no’ before ‘mean’.
Features of Litotes:
The essential features of this figure are :
(1) A strong affirmative idea is expressed.
(ii) There is a denial or negation of the contrary of the idea.
(i) The culprit was not unworthy of that great presence.-Macaulay
This is a litotes. Here, a strong affirmative statement ‘worthy’ (‘he is worthy’) is made by the negation (‘not’) of its contrary ‘unworthy’.
(ii) Myself not least, but honour’d of them all.
This is a litotes. Here, the affirmative idea ‘most’ (‘myself most….’) is expressed by the negation (‘not’) of its opposite ‘least’.
(iii) This is no joyous matter.
The affirmative idea ‘sad’ (‘sad matter’) is expressed by the negation (‘no’) of its opposite joyous’.
(iv) He is no fool.
[The affirmative idea ‘wise’ (‘he is wise’) is expressed by the negation (‘no’) of its contrary ‘fool’.
(v) No narrow (i.e., wide) path he had to cross.Here, the affirmative idea ‘wide’ is expressed by the negation (‘no narrow’) of its opposite wide.
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