Understanding the Idiom: "mutual admiration society" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
  • (environment which validates a limited set of ideas and feelings): circle jerk (vulgar), echo chamber, filter bubble, hugbox (offensive)

The idiom suggests that members of a mutual admiration society are more interested in receiving praise than in providing constructive feedback or engaging in meaningful discussions. The term has a negative connotation because it implies that the group is self-serving and lacks objectivity.

However, it’s important to note that not all forms of admiration are bad. Genuine appreciation for someone’s talents or accomplishments can be uplifting and motivating. The issue arises when this admiration becomes excessive and insincere.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “mutual admiration society”

The phrase “mutual admiration society” is a common idiom used to describe a group of people who constantly praise and compliment each other, often without any real substance or merit. However, the origins and historical context of this idiom are not well-known.

It is believed that the term first emerged in the mid-20th century as a way to criticize certain social circles where individuals would excessively flatter one another. This behavior was seen as insincere and superficial, lacking genuine appreciation or critique.

The concept of mutual admiration societies can be traced back to ancient Greece, where philosophers such as Plato warned against the dangers of surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals who only reinforce one’s own beliefs and biases. In modern times, this idea has been explored by psychologists studying group dynamics and social influence.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “mutual admiration society”

When it comes to idioms, there are often variations in usage depending on the context. The same can be said for the idiom “mutual admiration society”. While its meaning remains consistent, how it is used can vary from situation to situation.

Variations in Usage

  • The phrase “mutual admiration club” is sometimes used interchangeably with “mutual admiration society”.
  • In some cases, the idiom may be used sarcastically or ironically to describe a group that appears overly supportive of one another.
  • Alternatively, it may be used sincerely to describe a group that genuinely admires and respects one another.

Common Usage Scenarios

The idiom “mutual admiration society” is most commonly used in situations where two or more people are excessively praising each other. This could occur in personal relationships, professional settings, or even within groups such as political parties or fan clubs.

In some cases, this excessive praise may be seen as insincere or disingenuous. However, when used appropriately, the term can also convey a sense of genuine respect and appreciation among individuals who share common interests or goals.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “mutual admiration society”


There are several phrases in English that can be used interchangeably with “mutual admiration society.” For instance, people may refer to a group of individuals who excessively praise one another as a “clique,” “echo chamber,” or a “circle jerk.” These terms suggest an insular group where members reinforce each other’s opinions without any dissenting voices.


The opposite of a mutual admiration society is a community where criticism and disagreement are encouraged. In such settings, individuals engage in constructive debates and challenge each other’s ideas. Some possible antonyms for this idiom include: “debate club,” “critical thinking forum,” or simply an environment that fosters healthy discussion.

Cultural Insights:

The concept of mutual admiration societies has been around for centuries. It often arises when people share common interests or backgrounds and seek validation from their peers. However, excessive flattery can lead to complacency and hinder personal growth. In some cultures, such behavior is seen as disingenuous or even manipulative.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “mutual admiration society”

In order to truly understand the meaning of the idiom “mutual admiration society”, it is important to practice using it in various contexts. By doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of how and when to use this phrase appropriately.

One practical exercise is to write a short story or dialogue that includes the idiom “mutual admiration society”. This will help you become more comfortable with incorporating the phrase into your writing or speech.

Another exercise is to brainstorm situations where the idiom might be applicable. For example, imagine a group of coworkers who constantly compliment each other’s work without offering constructive criticism. This could be described as a “mutual admiration society” within the workplace.

By practicing these exercises, you can improve your understanding and usage of the idiom “mutual admiration society”.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “mutual admiration society”

When using idioms in conversation or writing, it is important to understand their meaning and usage. The idiom “mutual admiration society” is often used to describe a group of people who praise each other excessively and insincerely. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this idiom.

Avoid Overusing the Idiom

One mistake people make when using the idiom “mutual admiration society” is overusing it. While it may be an effective way to describe certain situations, using it too frequently can cause it to lose its impact and become cliché. It’s important to use the idiom sparingly and only when appropriate.

Avoid Using the Idiom Incorrectly

Another common mistake people make when using the idiom “mutual admiration society” is using it incorrectly. This can happen if someone misunderstands its meaning or uses it in a situation where it doesn’t apply. To avoid this mistake, take time to research and understand the context in which the idiom should be used before incorporating it into your language.


  • "mutual admiration society" in The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  • "mutual admiration society" in The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989. See "mutual admiration society," under "mutual."
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