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An insulting or negative comment disguised as praise. She said my new pants really make my legs look much slimmer. What a backhanded compliment!
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
backhanded complimentand left-handed compliment
an unintended or ambiguous compliment. Backhanded compliments are the only kind he ever gives! And I think his left-handed compliments are all given by accident, too!
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
a backhanded compliment
1. A backhanded compliment is a remark which seems to be praising someone or something but which could also be understood as criticism. Saying she's improved comes over as a backhanded compliment. Reviewers gave the play the backhanded compliment that it was `surprisingly impressive'.
2. A backhanded compliment is a remark which seems to be criticizing someone or something but which could also be understood as praise. They were seen as the ones most in need of some culture. This was a backhanded compliment: it implied that they were capable of appreciating the highest works of art.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a ˌbackhanded ˈcompliment(American English also a ˌleft-handed ˈcompliment) a remark that seems to express admiration but could also be understood as an insult: She told me that my essay was ‘surprisingly good’, which I thought was a backhanded compliment.
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