Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a snappy retort to say to someone that bought the same car or dress as you? If so, you could say, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” means that another person admires what you do. They are willing to copy your lifestyle and behaviors to achieve the same outcomes as you in life. It’s a way of complimenting your sense of individuality by referencing how other people copy your behavior.

Example Usage

“Did you see Mike bought the same car as Jim? It’s like he worships that guy or something. He even got it in the same color! I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

“Why are you wearing the same dress as me? That’s the second time you’ve done that in the last month. Oh well, I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

“The new guy started using Alan’s script when calling clients, and he got off the mark right away. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

“Don’t look at it like that. She’s not copying you by wearing the same outfit. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?”


The first adaptations of this proverbial saying appeared in the early 1700s. Still, they would take around two centuries before it appeared in its modern format.

The first known alternate version comes from a  biography of the stoic, Marcus Aurelius, written by Jeremy Collier and André Dacier, “Emperor Marcus Antoninus his conversation with himself,” published in 1708.

“You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship. The Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble than Flatter them.”

English author Eustace Budgell would bring the saying closer to its modern iteration by publishing an article in “The Spectator No. 605” in 1714.

“Imitation is a kind of artless flattery.”

However, the author Charles Caleb Colton coined the modern term in 1820.

“Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.”

Colton expressed the idea that imitating someone is to flatter them without being aware one is complimenting them. So, the “artless” appreciation must be “sincere” in its intention.

Phrases Similar to Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

  • Cute copycat.
  • Walk in my shadow.

Phrases Opposite to Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

  • Go your own way.
  • Cut your own path.
  • Be authentic.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Ways People May Say It Incorrectly

Some people may use the saying in a sarcastic tone. For instance, if someone adopts the same behavior as you, you may find it frustrating. You can use the expression to tell them that you don’t appreciate them copying your style. While this might be technically correct in its context, it’s not the more common use of the expression.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase It

You can use the phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” in professional and social situations. For instance, you could say it if someone publishes a similar article to yours, if they dress like you, or if they adopt any behavior they admire in you.

For instance, you could use it if your friend buys the same model and color car as you. Or if they go out and buy a dress they saw you wearing last week. The saying applies to your career as well. You could use it if another sales rep starts using your script and gets success with it.

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