French Word of the Day: rocambolesque

Today's word of the day is fun to say and might also improve your English. Read on to find out more about the meaning of 'rocambolesque'.

French Word of the Day: rocambolesque
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Why do I need to know rocambolesque?

This is a fun word to say and a great way to give your French conversation some panache when you want to express disbelief about something.

So, what does it mean?

Rocambolesque means “incredible” and “extraordinary” and is used to describe something improbable.

For example, a rocambolesque story is one that is full of twists and extraordinary adventures.


Une affaire tout à fait rocambolesque et inexplicable encore aujourd'hui. – An utterly incredible and as yet unexplained event.

À chaque fois que quelqu'un déblatère une affirmation rocambolesque, il dit simplement: «Nomme-moi en deux! – Whenever somebody rattles off some wild assertion, he just says: “Name me two!

(The above examples comes from


The word derives from the fictional character Rocambole, an adventurer created by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail, a 19th-century French writer.

The word rocambolesque has become common in French and other languages, including English, to label any kind of fantastic adventure.


Other words in French that get the same meaning across are bizarre or extravagant

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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.