What Is "Tall Poppy Syndrome," and Can I Catch It?

"Tall poppy syndrome" is not contagiousit’s not even a disease.

Samantha Enslen, read by Mignon Fogarty,

The term “tall poppy” dates back more than a century. The Dublin Review, published in 1860, uses the term to describe individual achievement being sacrificed to promote social equality. Referring to the political climate in France, the author writes, “…it was not the intention of their Legislature merely to cut down every tall poppy, but to reduce every flower in the garden to the same proportions.”

The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms tells us that the term may date farther back—much farther back. According to the Dictionary, Tarquin, the king of Rome in the 6th century, supposedly “struck off the heads of poppies as a gruesomely graphic demonstration of the way in which the important men of a captured city should be treated.” Ouch.

Rebel Wilson probably didn’t want anyone’s heads chopped off. She probably did want to be spared public shaming just because she’s famous.

Samantha Enslen runs Dragonfly Editorial. You can find her at dragonflyeditorial.com or on Twitter as @DragonflyEdit.



Ayto, John. Tall poppy. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford University Press. http://bit.ly/1F9ZuBJ (subscription required, accessed May 24, 2015).


Field of bright red poppy corn flowers in summer image courtesy of Shutterstock.




You May Also Like...

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.