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left-handed compliment

An insulting or negative comment disguised as praise. She said my new pants really make my legs look much slimmer. What a left-handed compliment!
See also: compliment

pay (one) a left-handed compliment

To insult or negatively criticize one in a manner that is disguised as or seems like a compliment or bit of praise. A: "Those pants really suit you—your legs don't look nearly as fat in them!" B: "Wow, talk about paying someone a left-handed compliment!" It's hard to tell when she's being sarcastic as a joke or when she's really just paying you a left-handed compliment.
See also: compliment, pay

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.
See also: compliment

left-handed compliment

a remark that is superficially complimentary but contains a strong element of adverse criticism.
See also: compliment