Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Have you ever been frustrated about someone copying your style, speech, or hobbies? Perhaps a friend comforts you by saying imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Take a look at what this popular saying means and where it originated. I’ll also show you how to use the English expression in your daily conversations. So, let’s see what imitation is the sincerest form of flattery means.

The English expression imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, means that when someone is trying to imitate what one does, owns, or thinks, it’s a compliment to that person. 

Who Said Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery?

Oscar Wilde popularized the proverb, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. However, he was not the first to say it.

What’s the Origin of Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

The phrase was originally used during the 19th century in Charles Caleb Colton’s work, Lacon: or Many Things in Few Words. But an earlier variation was in 1714. The author said, “Imitation is a kind of artless flattery”.

A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that gives advice or shares a universal truth. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and bywords, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. 

At the moment, the expression is often used when someone copies another but does not acknowledge that fact.

Mimicry is common in terms of another’s mannerisms, gestures, facial expressions, buying habits, business practices, or originality of thinking. While such emulation and mimicking may stem from sincere admiration, the imitator may harbor unconscious envy.

Some people also imitate as a form of mockery. Impersonating public figures is popular in the world of comedy.

Did Oscar Wilde Say, “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery”?

Yes, he did. The award-winning author expounded upon the idea in this quote: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

How to Use Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery in a Sentence

The English expression is already a sentence in itself. But you can include it in your statements–for example: 

“She copied every word I said in the meeting, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Or make it work in dialogues like this one:

  • Person 1: She always cuts her hair a few days after getting a haircut.
  • Person 2: Then take it as a compliment.
  • Person 1: Oh well. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

More Examples of Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

There is some truth to Oscar Wilde’s statement that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and, in the food and beverage market, successful brands frequently find their competitors trying to piggyback off that success by copying elements of their packaging, labeling, and branding. (The Otago Daily Times)

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I remember wanting so much to be just like them. (The Mason City Globe Gazette)

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the designer and former Cathedral vice-principal Jere Kubuske is calling out the Indianapolis Colts for stealing his logo design. (The Indianapolis Star)

Copying is a Compliment

The expression imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is another way to say that copying is a compliment. Or imitation is admiration. In any form of inflection, it means the same thing.

The idea has been around for centuries already, but Charles Caleb Colton and Oscar Wilde popularized it. You can use the proverb alone as a sentence or add it to your statements and dialogues.

If you’re looking to liven up your writing with more phrases and sayings like this, consider reading up on our breakdown of An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!