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left-handed compliment

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A compliment with two meanings, one of which is unflattering to the receiver: “The senator said that her opponent was quite competent for someone so inexperienced; you hear nothing but left-handed compliments in these debates.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Other Idioms and Phrases with left-handed compliment

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.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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