Figure Name understatement
Source Ad Herennium (355-357); Vinsauf (1967) ("understatement")
Earliest Source
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Understatement occurs when we say that by nature, fortune, or diligence, we or our clients possess some exceptional advantage, and, in order to avoid the impression of arrogant display, we moderate and soften the statement of it. (Ad Herennium)

2. If this statement is proposed: My power is not slight, my dignity not insignificant, I am implying more than I say, and the actual situation is of greater consequence than the words indicate. If I happen to be speaking on behalf of my friends, or on my own behalf, this manner of speech is in good taste, and I show becoming modesty in employing such an expression. In this way, the meaning makes its appearance veiled; the true situation is not clearly apparent; there is more consequence in the actual fact than the expression of it indicates. (Vinsauf)


1. " This, men of the jury, I have the right to say — that by labour and diligence I have contrived to be no laggard in the mastery of military science." (Ad Herennium)

1. " Was it then because of avarice or of need that he entered upon the crime ? Avarice? But he was most generous to his friends, and that is a sign of generosity, a virtue opposed to
avarice. Need ? But his father left him a patrimony that was—I do not wish to exaggerate—not the smallest." (Ad Herennium)

Kind Of
Part Of
Related Figures
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Nike Abbott
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No