Definition 2024


double negative



double negative (plural double negatives)

  1. (pejorative, rhetoric) A phrase in which there are two negative words or their compounds (e.g. no, not, never, none, etc), occasionally leading to ambiguity in the meaning, but necessary in some foreign languages.
  • "Jimmy, you look awfully guilty, have you been naughty again?"
    "Me sir, no sir, I haven't done nothing wrong, I swear."
    The n't and the nothing together create a double negative.
  • He nevere yet no vilaynie ne sayde.
    Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
    The highlighted terms create a triple negative.

Usage notes

Often used pejoratively to characterize language use that has been acceptable in many vintages and dialects of English and other languages.

See also