Anything Left-Handed > Uncategorized > Left Handed Compliment

Left Handed Compliment

This is one of those phrases where “left-handed” is used in a negative or abusive way without any real reason. This expression uses left-handed in the sense of “questionable or doubtful,” a usage dating from about 1600 according to Another explanation is that a left-handed compliment is an insult concealed in an apparent compliment and thus is the reverse of a real compliment, as left is the reverse of right. The left side has long been associated with wrongness and being “sinister”.

Some definitions:

  • A criticism or insult disguised as a compliment, an insult in the guise of an expression of praise
  • A compliment with two meanings, one of which is unflattering to the receiver.
  • Sometimes, a left-handed compliment may be inadvertent. However, the term usually indicates an intent to belittle or condescend Also called backhanded compliment
  • A type of Asteism – Polite irony; a genteel and ingenious manner of deriding another.


  • Boy, you’re pretty hot… for a fat (or skinny) chick!
  • The senator said that her opponent was quite competent for someone so inexperienced
  • Your son is more handsome than I would have expected
  • That dress is lovely – it does wonders for your figure

If you have any more information about the origin of this term or any good examples of amusing “backhanded” compliments, please post them as comments on this article below.

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