A left-handed compliment


      • backhanded compliment
        A comment that seems like a compliment but is actually insulting or rude

      • awkward compliment
        A praise that is unintentionally awkward or inappropriate

    Examples of A left-handed compliment

    • "Your dress fits you like a glove, but it's a shame it's such an ugly color."

      A left-handed compliment is a statement that seems like a compliment but actually has a negative connotation. In this example, the speaker says that the dress fits the person well, but then proceeds to criticize the color, implying that the dress itself is not flattering or attractive.

    • "You've improved since you started playing piano, but I still prefer your skills on the guitar."

      In this example, the speaker implies that the person's skills on the piano are still lacking compared to their skills on the guitar, despite their improvement.

    • "You've lost some weight since the last time I saw you, but honestly, you looked better when you were a bit more curvy."

      This statement seemingly praises the person for losing weight, but then goes on to criticize their previous appearance, making it a left-handed compliment.

    • "Your new haircut is much more flattering than your old one, but it's still not my favorite style."

      Similar to the previous example, the speaker acknowledges an improvement but then goes on to express their preference for a different hairstyle, therefore making it a left-handed compliment.

    • "Your dress fits you perfectly, but I really prefer the one you wore last time."

      In this example, the speaker is giving a compliment regarding the person's dress, but they follow it up with a subtle remark that implies a preference for a different dress. This is a left-handed compliment because it seems polite and complimentary on the surface, but actually has a critical undertones.

    • "Your presentation was impressive, but I think the last guy did a better job."

      This is another instance of a left-handed compliment. The speaker is complimenting the person's presentation but consciously or subconsciously introduces a comparison that detracts from the compliment.

    • "You certainly have a way with words, but you seem to use a lot of big words that I don't understand."

      The speaker is again paying a compliment but then making a subtle criticism by alluding to the fact that the person uses complex vocabulary that may not be familiar to everyone.

    • "Your singing talent is undeniable, but I have heard better singers in this genre."

      This final example involves the use of a left-handed compliment as the speaker compliments the person's singing talent, but then introduces a qualifier that takes away from the compliment by comparing it with other singers in the genre.


    The idiom "a left-handed compliment" refers to a comment that may initially seem like a compliment but is actually insulting or awkward. It is often used to describe a situation where someone's words are meant to praise or flatter, but end up causing offense or discomfort. This phrase highlights the complexity of human communication and the potential for misunderstanding, as well as the impact of insincerity or clumsiness in giving compliments.

    When someone receives a left-handed compliment, they may feel confused or offended, as the speaker's true intention is not immediately clear. This idiom serves as a reminder to be mindful of how we express praise and to strive for genuine, thoughtful compliments that are received positively.

    Origin of "A left-handed compliment"

    The origin of the idiom "a left-handed compliment" is unclear, but it likely stems from the historical association of left-handedness with clumsiness or awkwardness. Throughout history, left-handedness has been viewed with suspicion or negativity in various cultures, leading to the use of "left-handed" as a metaphor for something awkward or unconventional. Over time, this association may have evolved to include the idea of a compliment that is well-intentioned but ultimately awkward or backhanded in nature.

    Examples of this idiom can be found in literature, where characters may receive or give left-handed compliments, highlighting the social dynamics and complexities of human interaction. The idiom continues to be used in modern language to convey the idea of a seemingly positive remark that carries a subtle insult or discomfort.