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French Word of the Day: La rentrée (is it that time already?)

Because today's the day.

French Word of the Day: La rentrée (is it that time already?)
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why have we chosen la rentrée?

From news sites to adverts, this word is hard to escape at the moment. 

In France, la rentrée doesn’t only refer to a specific time of year, it is also something of a tradition in France and it’s possible you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by the number of articles instructing you on how to prepare for it as well as the changes that it signals


So, what does it mean?

La rentrée literally means ‘the return’ and is the term used to mean the start of the school year or the beginning of term and the return to work after the summer holidays during the first week of September.

But as you’ll know if you live in France, it takes on a greater sense of importance than the English translation might suggest. 

In France, with many people – especially those with children – taking three weeks off over the summer and with school children on holiday for a whopping two months during July and August, getting back to work after the break is a big deal.  

It is almost seen as a substitute for New Year and in France la rentrée is seen as a fresh beginning, which doesn’t only apply to school children.

It also applies to the return to work of France’s politicians.

Photo: AFP

La rentrée scolaire aura lieu début septembre – The start of the school year will take place at the beginning of September.

In headlines: 

Les 100 choses à faire à Paris à la rentrée – One hundred things to do in Paris at the beginning of term.

(Le Figaro)

Le coût de la rentrée scolaire de plus en plus cher – The cost of the start of the school year gets more and more expensive.

(La Depeche)

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.