What are the differences in the following words meaning flattery / to flatter:

  • お世{せ}辞{じ}
  • 追{つい}従{しょう}
  • おべっか
  • 胡{ご}麻{ま}をする
  • 阿{おもね}る
  • 諂{へつら}う
  • 煽{おだ}て(る)
  • 美{び}辞{じ}麗{れい}句{く}

Which ones are honest, sincere flattery??? Which ones mean to "butter someone up" or "suck up" (to compliment them only so they'll do something for your benefit)??? Do any of them convey both/additional meanings?

EDIT: Which one(s) are most commonly used in modern Japanese??? What are the (in)formality levels of each??

  • 1
    Isn’t “honest, sincere flattery” an oxymoron? Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 19:16
  • Not necessarily. From a dictionary I have: flatter (v) - to say nice things to someone in order to make them feel attractive or important; sometimes in a way that is not sincere.
    – istrasci
    Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 19:32
  • I did not know that it is possible to use the word “flatter” like that. Thanks! Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


Most of the listed words imply some insincerity, or at least mixed motives, with the possible exception of 美辞麗句. Roughly, the nuances are as follows:

お世{せ}辞{じ}: Praising someone to make them feel better (despite their poor showing)

"Honey, that's a fantastic drawing, I don't care if it got a C-".

煽{おだ}て(る): Praising someone to egg them on:

You're doing a great job with the vaccuming; keep it up! (Just don't come into the kitchen to "help").

追{つい}従{しょう}: To follow someone around and be a yes-man. Phillip Seymour Hoffman does a lot of this in The Big Lebowski.

美{び}辞{じ}麗{れい}句{く}: (lit. "beautiful elegant phrases"). Ornate, elaborate praise designed for flattery. Could be sincere. Note that this is a noun, not a verb.

The following are all similar, and mean to butter someone up:

  • おべっか
  • 胡{ご}麻{ま}をする
  • 阿{おもね}る
  • 諂{へつら}う

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