1. Sports Made with or using a backhand: a backhanded shot into the opponent's court.
2. Oblique or roundabout: "Maybe [avant-garde novels'] frustrating lack of plot is a backhanded tribute to plots" (Harvey Cox).
3. Having derogatory or insulting implications: "Everyone...said how wonderful, how glamorous she looked, but even that was a sort of backhanded compliment, with the unspoken addendum, for your age" (Freda Warrington).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.