See more synonyms for flatter on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention.
  2. to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively: She flatters him by constantly praising his books.
  3. to represent favorably; gratify by falsification: The portrait flatters her.
  4. to show to advantage: a hairstyle that flatters the face.
  5. to play upon the vanity or susceptibilities of; cajole, wheedle, or beguile: They flattered him into contributing heavily to the foundation.
  6. to please or gratify by compliments or attentions: I was flattered by their invitation.
  7. to feel satisfaction with (oneself), especially with reference to an accomplishment, act, or occasion: He flattered himself that the dinner had gone well.
  8. to beguile with hope; encourage prematurely, falsely, etc.
verb (used without object)
  1. to use flattery.

Origin of flatter

1175–1225; Middle English flat(t)eren to float, flutter, fawn upon, Old English floterian to float, flutter; for sense development, cf. flicker1, Old Norse flathra; reinforced by Old French flatter to flatter, literally, to stroke, caress (probably < Frankish *flat- flat1)
Related formsflat·ter·a·ble, adjectiveflat·ter·er, nounflat·ter·ing·ly, adverbhalf-flat·tered, adjectivehalf-flat·ter·ing, adjectivehalf-flat·ter·ing·ly, adverbun·flat·ter·a·ble, adjectiveun·flat·tered, adjectiveun·flat·ter·ing, adjectiveun·flat·ter·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for unflattering

harsh, insulting, uncomplimentary, blunt, critical, faultfinding

Examples from the Web for unflattering

Contemporary Examples of unflattering

Historical Examples of unflattering

  • Already he could feel that hate was a strong passion, not unflattering to its object.

    The Genius

    Margaret Horton Potter

  • "I never heard her say anything about you," Theodora said, with unflattering directness.

    Teddy: Her Book

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • He is a rival before whom your senses wince as before some unflattering image.

  • He was apologetic for his unflattering doubt, but of what sort was she?

    The Trail of the Hawk

    Sinclair Lewis

  • "You're an utter ass," said Clint with unflattering conviction.

    Left Guard Gilbert

    Ralph Henry Barbour

British Dictionary definitions for unflattering


  1. not flatteringin an unflattering light


  1. to praise insincerely, esp in order to win favour or reward
  2. to show to advantagethat dress flatters her
  3. (tr) to make to appear more attractive, etc, than in reality
  4. to play upon or gratify the vanity of (a person)it flatters her to be remembered
  5. (tr) to beguile with hope; encourage, esp falselythis success flattered him into believing himself a champion
  6. (tr) to congratulate or deceive (oneself)I flatter myself that I am the best
Derived Formsflatterable, adjectiveflatterer, nounflatteringly, adverb

Word Origin for flatter

C13: probably from Old French flater to lick, fawn upon, of Frankish origin


  1. a blacksmith's tool, resembling a flat-faced hammer, that is placed on forged work and struck to smooth the surface of the forging
  2. a die with a narrow rectangular orifice for drawing flat sections
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for unflattering

1580s, from un- (1) "not" + gerundive of flatter. Related: Unflatteringly.



early 13c., from Old French flater "to flatter" (13c.), originally "stroke with the hand, caress," from Frankish *flat "palm, flat of the hand" (see flat (adj.)). "[O]ne of many imitative verbs beginning with fl- and denoting unsteady or light, repeated movement" [Liberman]. Related: Flattered; flattering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper