One way to think about the verb understate is as the opposite of "exaggerate." If you want to make something seem smaller or less important than it really is, you're likely to understate it.

If you don't want your grandmother to worry about you, you might be tempted to understate, or downplay, the trouble you've had finding a new job. Business owners might understate their financial problems when they're applying for a bank loan, and a new student might understate her experience speaking French so as not to embarrass her inept French teacher.

Definitions of understate
  1. verb
    represent as less significant or important
    synonyms: downplay, minimise, minimize
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    amplify, exaggerate, hyperbolise, hyperbolize, magnify, overdraw, overstate
    to enlarge beyond bounds or the truth
    trivialise, trivialize
    make trivial or insignificant
    type of:
    impart knowledge of some fact, state or affairs, or event to
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