left-handed compliment

Cultural Dictionary

left-handed compliment definition


A compliment with two meanings, one of which is unflattering to the receiver: “The senator said that her opponent was quite competent for someone so inexperienced; you hear nothing but left-handed compliments in these debates.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

left-handed compliment

Also, backhanded compliment. An insult in the guise of an expression of praise. For example, She said she liked my hair, but it turned out to be a left-handed compliment when she asked how long I'd been dyeing it. This expression uses left-handed in the sense of "questionable or doubtful," a usage dating from about 1600.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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