SHARE
COPY LINK

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Word of the Day: chouette

Today's word of the day is one that's used all the time in casual conversation in France to express positive feelings towards someone or something. Find out how to use it here.

French Word of the Day: chouette
Photo: Depositphotos

Why do I need to know chouette?

It’s a very useful word you can use to describe something that you like or you think is nice or cool. But it’s also the name for a big-eyed nocturnal bird.

What does it mean?

As a noun, chouette is the word for 'owl' in French. There’s la chouette effraie, the barn owl, and la chouette lapone, the great grey owl.

However, you’re much more likely to hear chouette being used in conversation as an adjective to describe something or someone that’s 'great', 'nice' or 'pleasant'.

So on a passé une chouette soirée means 'we had a pleasant evening', and tu portes une choutte chapeau means 'you are wearing a nice hat'.

For a person you might say, il est un chouette garcon (he’s a nice/friendly kid).

Chouette also has a very common usage as an interjection to express satisfaction about something: Chouette! Mon colis est arrivé! (Great! My package has arrived!)

Then there are other expressions that include the word chouette, such as Machin chouette, which you use to refer to someone whose name you can’t remember, in the same way as you 'thingummy' or 'thingamabob' in English.

And perhaps the most pejorative usage of chouette but one that may come in handy occasionally is using it to describe a grumpy old lady or hag, une vieille chouette

It's also worth noting that chouette is an informal word that you're more likely to use in conversation with friends than in a business meeting. 

Alternatives

Chouette is a bit like saying ‘neat’ or ‘swell’ in American English or ‘ace’ in British English.

If you're looking for alternatives you can say c’est super! or cést genial! to describe a situation or outcome you’re happy about.

If you want to describe a chouette person you can call them sympa instead, or for an object joli/e

Origin

Chouette as an expression to celebrate something good does derive from the French word for owl.

It first appeared in France around the Middle Ages, as the now lost verb choeter, which meant to be/act trendy or smart.

French Renaissance writer François Rabelais was among the first people to use it in writing when describing his wife as une belle petite chouette, showcasing how people associated the nocturnal birds of prey with being elegant and clean.

For more French Expressions and French Words of the Day you can CLICK HERE to see our full list

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?

Synonyms

Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener

SHOW COMMENTS