back-handed compliment

Idiom Definition

Idiom Definition - back-handed compliment

"back-handed compliment"

a criticism that is phrased in such a way that it appears to be a compliment


Related words and phrases:

Idiom Scenario 1

Idiom Definition - back-handed compliment

Two colleagues are talking ...

Colleague 1:  So? What did the boss say about your report?

Colleague 2:  He said that he really appreciated my hard work but wondered if my time could not have been spent more productively. I am not sure that I really understood his comment.

Colleague 1:  That sounds like a back-handed compliment. What he really said was that the report was not very good especially considering the amount of time and effort required.

Colleague 2:  Oh. It sounded like a compliment. 

Idiom Scenario 2

Idiom Definition - back-handed compliment

Two friends are talking ...

Friend 1:  Do you think this outfit is too "young" for me?

Friend 2:  Your face is very young-looking.

Friend 1:  Thanks, I guess, for that backhanded compliment. I suppose you are right in that my body is not as young as it once was.

Friend 2:  I didn't want to say it directly, but, yes.

back-handed compliment - Usage:


Usage Frequency Index:   140   click for frequency by country

back-handed compliment - Gerund Form:

There is no gerund form for back-handed compliment.

back-handed compliment - Examples:

1)  At least that's the perception. McCaw has been given a great back-handed compliment by Aussie rugby fans who have labelled him a serial cheat. 

2)  ... often made in a subtle way. We have all been given the mean-spirited, back-handed compliment along the lines of, 'Oh, you are so adventurous wearing that ...

3)  ... one of the best-planned houses of its time, which may have been a back-handed compliment as later writers have decided that the garden front is generally criticised for being ...

4)  By way of the back-handed compliment intended to undermine the confidence of an upcoming star, an envious competitor might ...

5)  We can only guess it was some kinda back-handed compliment which sorta imploded and went right off-course.

6)  ... first part is ostensibly complimentary; the second is insulting. The speaker makes a back-handed compliment from the position of the subject of the statement, ...

7)  Everything he says is negative and wherever seemingly positive comes across as a back-handed compliment.

8)  A weird kind of back-handed compliment. You're too good for morning TV/you're not good enough for morning ...

9)  ... saying you admire someone for how hard they work is sort of a back-handed compliment into saying that they don't have the talent.

10)  It's a back-handed compliment to tell me you like me but I'm not worth your nickel.

11)  ... advanced level through "negging". That's a technique where you make a backhanded compliment designed to undermine your target and make her seek your approval by ...

12)  ... a pretty plain looking person but I've never once even received a passive-aggressive or backhanded compliment about my appearance from another woman.

13)  ... probably make up for it because you have a pretty face. The backhanded compliment seems to be a regular feature of my experience with the opposite sex in ...

14)  ... that it was one of the better new comedies of the season -- a very backhanded compliment, admittedly, given what this season has been like ...

15)  Just as we can sniff out the true meaning of a backhanded compliment or a disingenuous apology, children, too, scrutinize praise for hidden agendas.

16)  ... amuse it's brilliantly, madly, uniquely insane. It seems a real backhanded compliment, but menus are the highlight.

17)  ... when I likened you to Goebbels, I was paying you a backhanded compliment: he was an ace propagandist.

18)  But these are Sapphire's competitors speaking, so it's best to take that backhanded compliment with a pinch of salt. 

19)  ... hurt, they can at least get their anger out of their systems with a backhanded compliment.

20)  It is not a backhanded compliment in which criticism is implied alongside the praise, e.g. That was great.