insincere praise spoken in order to gain favor from someone
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Flattery (also called adulation or blandishment) is the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject. Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolò Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II di Piero de' Medici, ruler of Florence and Duke of Urbino, in The Prince. Most associations with flattery, however, are negative. Negative descriptions of flattery range at least as far back in history as The Bible. In the Divine Comedy, Dante depicts flatterers wading in human excrement, stating that their words were the equivalent of excrement, in the 8th Circle of Hell.


  • Men who offer laudatory speeches to the rich ... are insidious because, although mere abundance is by itself quite enough to puff up the souls of its possessors, and to corrupt them, and to turn them aside from the way by which salvation can be reached, these men bring fresh delusion to the minds of the rich by exciting them with the pleasures that come from their immoderate praises, and by rendering them contemptuous of absolutely everything in the world except the wealth which is the cause of their being admired. In the words of the proverb, they carry fire to fire, when they shower pride upon pride, and heap on wealth, heavy by its own nature, the heavier burden of arrogance.
  • I would give worlds, could I believe
    One-half that is profess'd me;
    Affection! could I think it Thee,
    When Flattery has caress'd me.
  • Mine eyes
    Were not in fault, for she was beautiful;
    Mine ears, that heard her flattery; nor my heart,
    That thought her like her seeming; it had been vicious
    To have mistrusted her.
  • Why should the poor be flatter'd?
    No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
    And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,
    Where thrift may follow fawning.
  • By God, I cannot flatter: I do defy
    The tongues of soothers; but a braver place
    In my heart's love, hath no man than yourself;
    Nay, task me to my word; approve me, lord.
  • What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
    But poison'd flattery?
  • Take no repulse, whatever she doth say;
    For, "get you gone," she doth not mean, "away."
    Flatter and praise, commend, extol their graces;
    Though ne'er so black, say they have angels' faces.
    That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man,
    If with his tongue he cannot win a woman.
  • Of folly, vice, disease, men proud we see;
    And, (stranger still,) of blockheads' flattery;
    Whose praise defames; as if a fool should mean,
    By spitting on your face, to make it clean.
  • With your own heart confer;
    And dread even there to find a flatterer.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical QuotationsEdit

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 276-77.
  • It has been well said that "the arch-flatterer with whom all the petty flatterers have intelligence is a man's self."
    • Quoted by Francis Bacon, Essays, X, Of Love. Variation in Essay XXVII, Of Friendship; LIII, Of Praise. From Plutarch, De Adul, et Amico.
  • Assentatio, vitiorum adjutrix, procul amoveatur.
    • Let flattery, the handmaid of the vices, be far removed (from friendship).
    • Cicero, De Amicitia, XXIV.
  • Of praise a mere glutton, he swallow'd what came,
    And the puff of a dunce, he mistook it for fame;
    Till his relish grown callous, almost to displease,
    Who pepper'd the highest was surest to please.
  • Adulandi gens prudentissima laudat
    Sermonem indocti, faciem deformis amici.
    • The skilful class of flatterers praise the discourse of an ignorant friend and the face of a deformed one.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), III. 86.
  • On croit quelquefois haïr la flatterie; mais on ne hait que la manière de flatter.
    • We sometimes think that we hate flattery, but we only hate the manner in which it is done.
    • François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes (1665–1678), 329.
  • No adulation; 'tis the death of virtue;
    Who flatters, is of all mankind the lowest
    Save he who courts the flattery.
  • Qu se laudari gaudent verbis subdolis,
    Sera dant pœnas turpes pœnitentia.
    • They who delight to be flattered, pay for their folly by a late repentance.
    • Phædrus, Fables, I, 13, 1.
  • By flatterers besieged
    And so obliging that he ne'er obliged.
  • Their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
    • Psalms. V. 9.
  • Es ist dem Menschen leichter und geläufiger, zu schmeicheln als zu loben.
    • It is easier and handier for men to flatter than to praise.
    • Jean Paul Richter, Titan, Zykel 34.
  • 'Tis an old maxim in the schools,
    That flattery's the food of fools;
    Yet now and then your men of wit
    Will condescend to take a bit.
  • Where Young must torture his invention
    To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.
  • Vitium fuit, nunc mos est, adsentatio.
    • Flattery was formerly a vice; it has now become the fashion.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • Pessimum genus inimicorum laudantes.
    • Flatterers are the worst kind of enemies.
    • Tacitus, Agricola, XLI.

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