Definition and Examples of Meiosis
Meiosis (also known as “extenuatio,” “detractio,” “diminutiothe disabler”; etymologically from Greek ‘mei-o-o,’ literally “to make smaller”) is a euphemistic figureOpens in new window whose statement depicts something important with terms or degrading epithetsOpens in new window that lessen its significance.
Any verbal effort to make an event, an idea, or a person less significant is a form of meiosis; it can be thought of as the opposite of AuxesisOpens in new window (efforts to give something presence). Meiosis is by some rhetors regarded as a kind of LitotesOpens in new window.
Henry PeachamOpens in new window in the first edition of his Garden of Eloquence treats this figure “meiosis” as the general technique of using “a lesse word for a greater, to make the matter much lesse then it is”.