You probably use litotes every day. Ever say, "He's not the brightest bulb in the lamp," meaning "He's dumb"? Or "She's no beauty queen" meaning "She's ugly"? Well, those are examples of litotes — a way of saying something by saying what it's not.
Beware using litotes too often, especially in written form. George Orwell, who had a lot to say about the misuses of language, once suggested that a good cure for the excessive use of the "not un-" format (a classic litotes), as in "a not unintelligent person," was to memorize the following sentence: "A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field." It usually does the trick.
n understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)