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Understatement Examples

Understatement is a type of statement that is much less forceful than what is accurate. Understatement is a figurative language technique. It is like hyperbole, but the opposite. Hyperbole means to exaggerate or go well beyond literal reality, whereas understatement goes under it. Let’s take a closer look at these words:

The word hyperbole is made up of Greek root words which translate to “throw beyond” or “over throw.” Hyperbole means to exaggerate literal reality. The root words of understatement are much less cryptic to most English speakers. Understatements go under the literal reality. Are you confused? Let’s look at an example to clear it up for you.


Swimming with those starving sharks might be a bit unpleasant.

A starving shark is likely to eat a silly swimmer with its big shark teeth. How would you describe such an attack? Would you say that it would be unpleasant? Of all the adjectives in the world, is that the one the best describes it? Of course not. Swimming with starving sharks would be terrifying, insane, and extremely painful. To say that it would be “a bit unpleasant,” is to understate just how horrible it would be. So, you see, when one uses understatement, he or she greatly understates the literal reality. Here are 50 examples of understatement to help you better understand this elusive concept:

50 Examples of Understatement

  1. She gave birth to me, raised me from an infant, always provided for me… Maybe I owe her one.
  2. Jeb figured that wrestling the grizzly bear would be a tad bit risky, so he went back the way he came.
  3. My teacher assigned a thick homework packet, two book reports, and a 10-page research project, so I guess that I’m going to be a little busy this weekend.
  4. Thomas Edison had a few ideas that he wanted to share with the world– 1,093 of which would be granted U.S. patents.
  5. The next closest star to the Earth is a mere 4.22 light-years away.
  6. Some folks might turn their noses up at old Buck, on account of all of those murders that he committed, but he’s good people when it comes down to it.
  7. Kidnapping the bride at her wedding was a slight of breach of decorum.
  8. As the large pack of snarling wolves advanced, Dakota John smirked at his partner Steve and said, “Aw, you’re not afraid of a few puppies are you, Steve?”
  9. “I’ll be there in one-second!” shouted Paul from the other end of the long hallway.
  10. Let’s just say that our son was not pleased to find his new Gamebox 4000 at the bottom of the swimming pool.
  11. When asked about the circus, Tommy replied, “Yeah, there were animals and stuff. It was OK.”
  12. After the boys lost the basketball game 12 to 84, the coach said, “Well, guys, we came up a little bit short.”
  13. It was a wee bit unneighborly when he poisoned my poodle.
  14. Organizing all of the books in this library did require a little time and a teensy bit of work.
  15. After turning the soup can into liquid with his new heat-ray, Dr. Wild remarked in a thick German accent, “Yah, it gets pretty warm.”
  16. Walking across the entire continental United States might take you a minute.
  17. My cousin is 7 feet tall and I’m 5 feet, so I guess he’s a got a little bit of height on me.
  18. Giving cake to a baby can be a little bit messy.
  19. The elderly woman who was thrown from the train was having a rough morning.
  20. Gee, Charlie, I don’t think you’re going to be able to pick up that pickup truck. It looks a tad too heavy for you.
  21. You could try to swim across the Pacific Ocean, but it’d be a little tiring and there might not be enough time to do it this afternoon.
  22. Max looked at the mountain jutting into the sky and said, “Yeah, it’s probably a little too big to jump over it.”
  23. Jumping into a frozen lake will cool you down alright.
  24. Pluto can get as cold as -400F at night, so if you’re going there, you might want to bring a jacket.
  25. I suppose that getting into a fist fight with the principal was a little bit out of line.
  26. The ocean has a decent amount of water in it.
  27. Torture can be uncomfortable at times.
  28. Getting hit by a speeding car might leave a mark.
  29. Well, sicking your attack dogs on those Christmas carolers wasn’t the most neighborly thing to do.
  30. I guess that getting straight As on your report card is pretty good.
  31. I got a phone bill for around $20,000, which was slightly more expensive than the $40 that they told me that I’d be paying.
  32. So maybe jumping out of an airplane without a parachute wasn’t the best idea.
  33. I suppose that having trees and plants on our planet is kind of important.
  34. Driving the wrong way down a one-way rode isn’t the safest way to get from point A to point B.
  35. Our math teacher knows a thing or two about arithmetic.
  36. Jan looked at the black, smoldering chunk of charred meat on her plate and said, “Maybe it’s a bit overcooked.”
  37. Launching a rocket into outer space is not that easy.
  38. Jacob wasn’t exactly happy to find out that he wouldn’t be graduating.
  39. Looking over the traffic, sprawling bumper to bumper for miles, John muttered to his partner, “This could be a minute…”
  40. When the Internet came, it changed a few things.
  41. The Universe is a pretty big place.
  42. It’s probably fair to say that it would take you a bit of time to count to a trillion.
  43. You have to work a little bit if you want to be a professional athlete.
  44. It turns out that climbing Mount Everest is not so easy.
  45. If you drop out of high school, you’re probably not going to be the next President of the United States.
  46. Maybe eating an entire chocolate cake for breakfast wasn’t the healthiest way to start the day.
  47. It’s probably a good idea to keep your eyes on the road when you’re speeding on the highway.
  48. Snails don’t rank among the fastest of animals.
  49. “Leaving my wallet and ID at the crime scene might have been a small mistake,” admitted the criminal.

In review, understatement is a type of figurative language technique. It is related to hyperbole but it is different. Hyperbole means to exaggerate. Understatement means to minimize something well-beyond literal reality. I hope that these examples of understatement will help you to better understand this tricky figurative language technique.

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