give the devil his due

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give the devil his due

  1. (idiomatic) To acknowledge the positive qualities of a person who is unpleasant or disliked.
    • 1597, William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part I, act 1, scene 2:
      . . . for he was never yet a breaker of
      proverbs: he will give the devil his due.
    • 1821, Sir Walter Scott, chapter 4, in Kenilworth:
      Yet give the devil his due; Says grace before he doth a deed of villainy.
    • 1922, Zane Grey, chapter 5, in The Day of the Beast:
      And to give the devil his due he's finer than ever. Too damn fine for this crowd!
    • 2007 April 5, Richard Schickel, "The Fog of War Resistance" (film review), Time:
      We are obliged, at least this once, to give the devil his due — and to consider the possibility that he may even be, in this instance, the angel of bleak truthfulness.