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Related to compliment: complement
A false or facetious display of obeisance, or an insult disguised as a compliment. A derogatory phrase, it should not be confused with the linguistic or sociological components of compliments as used in Chinese language and culture.
An insulting or negative comment disguised as praise. She said my new pants really make my legs look much slimmer. What a back-handed compliment!
compliment (someone) on (something)
To praise someone for something specific. I have to compliment you on this dinner you made—it's just delicious! The salesman just complimented me on my beautiful smile!
fish for compliments
To attempt to elicit praise from someone, typically by saying negative things about oneself. We know you're a smart kind, Dan. You don't need to fish for compliments by talking about the one C you got. Tara's always fishing for compliments by talking about how she couldn't get her hair the way she wanted it.
return the compliment
1. Literally, to give someone a compliment after they have paid one to you. I always feel the need to return the compliment when someone says something nice to me.
2. To reciprocate someone's actions. You helped me last week, so I'll return the compliment and do your filing. If Tiffany's the one who started that rumor about me, I'll just return the compliment with a rumor about her.
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!
compliment someone on something
to say something nice to someone about something connected to that person. I was pleased with Alice's work and complimented her on it. They complimented me on my new tie.
fish for a compliment
Fig. to try to get someone to pay oneself a compliment. When she showed me her new dress, I could tell that she was fishing for a compliment. Tom was certainly fishing for a compliment when he modeled his fancy haircut for his friends.
pay someone a backhanded complimentand pay someone a left-handed compliment
Fig. to give someone a false compliment that is really an insult or criticism. John said that he had never seen me looking better. I think he was paying me a left-handed compliment. I'd prefer that someone insulted me directly. I hate it when someone pays me a backhanded compliment—unless it's a joke.
pay someone compliment
Fig. to give someone a compliment. Tom paid Bill a compliment when he told him he was intelligent. Mary was very gracious when Anne paid her a compliment.
return the complimentand return someone's compliment
to pay a compliment to someone who has paid you a compliment. Mary told me that my hair looked nice, so I returned her compliment and told her that her hair was lovely. When someone says something nice, it is polite to return the compliment.
back of one's hand
Rejection or contempt, as in Unimpressed with him, she gave the back of her hand to his suggestion. This phrase is usually the object of a verb such as give or show. [Second half of 1700s] Back of the hand similarly means "an insult" in the term back-handed compliment (see under left-handed compliment) but has a quite different meaning in know like the back of one's hand (see under know like a book).
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.
pay a compliment
Express praise or commendation to someone, as in Meredith wanted to pay Christopher a compliment so she told him she liked his new haircut . This expression uses pay in the sense of "give something that is due." [c. 1700]
return the compliment
Also, return the favor. Repay someone in kind, as in Her political opponent came out with a smear campaign, and she returned the compliment. Neither the compliment nor the favor in this idiom is necessarily desirable. [First half of 1700s]
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.