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[1], 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[2], 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