backhanded compliment

backhanded compliment
also, left-handed compliment

Meaning

  • give ironical praise to someone
  • a compliment that raises eyebrows
  • disapprove of something with a positive compliment
  • ambiguous statement – one that can be taken as a compliment, but which might also be seen as an insult

Example Sentences

  1. The judges loved your performance, but this was a backhanded compliment since they also highlighted it was blunt.
  2. “You look amazing in that colorful dress; your figure is missing, though.” What a backhanded compliment he said to her.
  3. “Your new haircut looks amazing. Did you choose it yourself?” What a left-handed compliment from his mother!
  4. The husband said the food was tasty, which seemed like a backhanded compliment since he ate only two spoonfuls.
  5. “Your new sports car is ready to take on some rough offroad trails.” What a backhanded compliment!
  6. To say she looked pretty was a backhand compliment seeing how her makeup was excessively done.
  7. The teacher remarked that her essay was perfect despite many grammar mistakes – a backhand compliment.
  8. She told him that he looked much better than he usually did, which was a bit of a left-handed compliment.

Origin

The phrase backhanded compliment is an idiom which is synonymous with a left-handed compliment. It comes from the Latin word “sinistra,” which translates to sinister in English. In the past, being left-handed was considered unfortunate. It stood for being unlucky. 

More etymology suggests shaking hands was primarily associated with the right hand. However, since the lefthanded’s left arm was the most effective, they could launch an attack hence deceitful.

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2 Thoughts

Numerous literary critics from Eastern Europe are witty and use backhanded compliments in their book reviews.

- Maryna April 7, 2021

Backhanded compliment means a statement that can be understood in good and bad sense.

- Kiran Dhaliwal January 16, 2016

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