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 Niccolo Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II di Piero de' Medici, ruler of Florence and Duke of Urbino, in The Prince.
Flattery is also used in pick-up lines used to attempt to initiate romantic courtship.
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.
"To flatter" is also used to refer to artwork or clothing that makes the subject or wearer appear more attractive, as in:
- The King was pleased with the portrait, as it was very flattering of his girth.
- I think I'll wear the green dress because it flatters my legs.
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