pay a compliment

pay (one) a compliment

To compliment one; to give one a piece of praise. It took me a little while to realize that he was paying me a compliment. It isn't often she pays her employees compliments, so you should really feel proud.
See also: compliment, pay

pay (someone or something) a compliment

To give someone praise, especially for a specific accomplishment or trait. He paid the chef a compliment for the delicious soufflé. I don't really like it when people pay me a compliment for my appearance—I never know how to react.
See also: compliment, pay
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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]
See also: compliment, pay
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.
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References in periodicals archive ?
To pay a compliment that works, Chris' advice is simple: "When you give a compliment, be specific - if you want to shape people's performance, for example, tell them exactly what they did well in that meeting - it should be, 'that presentation was excellent', 'it was clear', you did this or that well."