tall poppy

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A metaphor of something conspicuous that should be lopped. Australian from 1902.


tall poppy ‎(plural tall poppies)

  1. (Australia, New Zealand) A conspicuously successful person, especially one who attracts envious hostility.
    • 1999 June 1, Polly Schneider, Australia Unbound, CIO, page 43,
      Like many thriving, young Australian execs, Simpson has to be wary of being construed a “tall poppy,” a cultural label placed on people who flaunt their success, based on the idea that a poppy taller than the others gets chopped down.
    • 2003, Robert Aldrich, Colonialism and Homosexuality, page 240,
      Others have emphasised how it standardised and enforced social mores, cutting down ‘tall poppies’ and shirking those whose race, political beliefs, aspirations – or sexual proclivities – did not or could not bow to peer pressure.
    • 2010, Mary Nolan, Home Birth: The Politics of Difficult Choices, page 46,
      This is not so say that any of the health professionals whom the women encountered were bullies or would have been considered by colleagues as bullies; however, they do appear to have been the agents of a bullying maternity service that disliked clients who were tall poppies and was determined to cut them down to size.

Derived terms[edit]


  • OED 2006