Meiosis (figure of speech)

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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.[1][2][3] The term is derived from the Greek μειόω (“to make smaller”, "to diminish").


Historical examples
Other examples
  • "The Pond", for the Atlantic Ocean ("across the pond"). Similarly, "The Ditch" for the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield says "It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain."
  • "Intolerable meiosis!" comments a character in William Golding's Fire Down Below as their ship encounters an iceberg after another character comments, "We are privileged. How many people have seen anything like this?"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encarta World English Dictionary (1999)
  2. ^ The Times English Dictionary (2000)
  3. ^ OED 1st edition


  • Burton, Gideon O. "Meiosis". Silva Rhetoricae. Archived from the original on 2006-12-29. Retrieved 2006-12-24.