French Word of the Day: Carrément

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French Word of the Day: Carrément
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French word regularly crops up in conversation, often on its own as a reaction to something.


Why do I need to know carrément?
Because once you know what it means, it will become one of those colloquial French words you'll start using all time because it's so handy and it will effortlessly make you sound native.

What does carrément mean?

Carrément - roughly pronounced cah-ray-mahn - is an adverb that can loosely be translated into English as 'really', 'completely' or 'absolutely'. It can be used in a sentence or on its own, as it often is, often emphatically.

It technically would translate as 'squarely' but you won't hear carrément used in this way nearly as often.

The word is thought to have first appeared in French in the 13th century, and it comes from the French word for square (carré). That being said, the adverb carrément doesn't really have anything to do with the geometric shape, though it is probably loosely related in the sense that squares are seen as solid shapes.


Other than that, in French, if someone is described as being carré, this can also mean 'straightforward' or 'no-nonsense'. It's somewhat similar to calling someone a 'square' in English, but it is less insulting. A student might describe a demanding professor as carré for instance.

Depending on the context, some synonyms for carrément might be totalement (totally) or absolument (absolutely).

Use it like this

Il fait carrément chaud! - It's really hot!

Les manifestants ont carrément defié la police. - The protesters completely defied the police.

Il est carrément fou! - He's completely mad!

Tu vas vraiment l'inviter a ta fête? Carrément! - Are you really going to invite her to your party? Absolutely!


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