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!
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
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 © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
left-handed complimenta remark that is superficially complimentary but contains a strong element of adverse criticism.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
left-handed compliment, a
An expression of praise or admiration that is actually a faintly disguised insult or reproach. The association of lefthandedness with ambiguity or doubtfulness may come from the practice of the morganatic marriage ceremony (between royalty and a commoner who renounces all claim to the spouse’s title and property); in it the groom gave the bride his left hand instead of the right hand used in conventional marriage ceremonies.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer