Meaning of tall poppy in English:

tall poppy


informal mainly Australian, mainly New Zealand
  • A person who is conspicuously successful and whose success frequently attracts envious hostility.

    • ‘this is a nation that likes to win, but it also prides itself on its tendency to cut down tall poppies’
    • ‘Finns don't cut tall poppies down to size.’
    • ‘In 2002, the world-renowned manager and prototypical tall poppy, retired.’
    • ‘Aussies rarely lose their sense of humour and love to poke fun at pomposity and 'tall poppies'.’
    • ‘Your country is notorious for knocking down its tall poppies.’
    • ‘Call me Australian, but I love seeing a tall poppy get knocked down.’
    • ‘With his reputation for bluster and pomposity, the tall poppy was levelled in his near-death head-on on a West Australian highway.’
    • ‘Those who boo him expose themselves as the biggest morons in sport and the dark side of the tall poppy Aussie psyche.’
    • ‘This is not the Australian way - slagging the underdog and propping up the tall poppies.’
    • ‘"Mate, I am definitely not a Tall Poppy," he says with pained insistence.’
    • ‘I'm not going to sugar-coat my personality just because an anonymous reviewer thinks that this tall poppy deserves a cutting.’
    • ‘He may have to make a self-transformation from a tall poppy into a shrinking violet.’
    • ‘Why do people get so much joy from cutting down tall poppies?’
    • ‘We hate tall poppies, but woe betide the All Blacks when they lose.’
    • ‘Abroad, he is a literary star but at home the novelist is a vulnerable, isolated and often unpopular figure - a tall poppy surrounded by sinister men with scythes.’
    • ‘How does this tall poppy keep her head out of the clouds?’
    • ‘Two months ago another very rich "tall poppy" was felled by accusations of financial impropriety.’
    • ‘Australians love to deride tall poppies, and that's all very well, I love doing it myself.’
    • ‘I was expecting tall poppies to be gleefully lopped, hacked and triumphantly danced on, but instead they were treated with a strange degree of respect.’
    • ‘Who are the tall poppies whose talent and drive must be restricted and restrained?’
    • ‘Tall poppies aren't objects of admiration here, but scorn.’


Mid 19th century from an obsolete sense of poppy‘a conspicuous or prominent person or thing’, probably with reference to Tarquinius Superbus, a king of ancient Rome who demonstrated how to deal with potential enemies by cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies in his garden (Livy 1.54.6).