French Word of the Day: Estivant

Ready for your daily dose of French vocab? Here's today's word 'estivant'.

French Word of the Day: Estivant

It seems like half of France is doing this at the moment, but if you're joining the lucky hoards heading off on holiday, here is a word you will need.

Why do I need to know estivant/estivante?

As we head into peak holiday season, this word could well apply to you if you're jetting off abroad, or just downing tools and heading off to the country for a while.

So, what does it mean? 

Estivant/estivante (ess-tee-vaun/ ess-tee-vante) is a noun meaning 'holidaymaker'.

Applying specifically for those getting away in summer, coming from the adjective 'estival' or 'summery', you are an 'estivant' (for men) or an 'estivante' (for woman) if you're heading on holiday this season. 

The opposite of an hivernant/hivernante, which apply to winter travellers, these are words that are appropriate in France. Named the world's most visited destination by international tourists in 2017, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, France welcomed nearly 87 million 'estivants' and 'hivernants' two years ago.  

The hivernant is not to be confused with the treve hivernale. Also deriving from the word hiver (winter) the treve hivernale refers to the winter period when landlords are legally forbidden from evicting their tenants, even if they are in rent arrears. The truce runs from November 1st to March 31st every year.

For French people themselves, August is the big holiday month during les grandes vacances, which applied specifically to a break over the holiday months.

During August the big cities, particularly Paris, pretty much empty out and  there's even a day named Black Saturday, normally taking place at the end of July, which is infamous for its traffic jams as the French people hit the road on holiday. 


Les estivants triplent la population de cette ville. – The holidaymakers triple the population of this town. 

Elle habite ici ? Non, elle est une estivante. – Does she live here? No, she is a holidaymaker. 

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French Expression of the Day: Avoir l’estomac dans les talons

A sensation you might feel around midi after skipping your morning croissant.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l'estomac dans les talons

Why do I need to know avoir l’estomac dans les talons?

Because you might want to inform your friend waiting in the long restaurant line with you about just how hungry you actually are.

What does it mean?

Avoir l’estomac dans les talons usually pronounced ah-vwar leh-sto-mack dahn lay tah-lonn – literally means to have the stomach in the heels, but it really just means that you are extremely hungry. A British-English equivalent might be ‘my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’.

As with saying ‘I’m starving’ you wouldn’t use this to talk about people who are genuinely at risk of starvation, it’s just a phrase to complain about being hungry and wanting something to eat.

The expression probably originated around the end of the 19th century, and there are a couple of different ideas about how it came to be.

The first is that it’s intended to paint a picture of your stomach narrowing so much that it goes all the way down to your heels. The second idea proposes that since ‘les talons’ (heels) is a homonym with ‘l’étalon’ (stallion), the phrase might actually be referring to horse meat. You might be so hungry that the only thing that could possibly satiate your empty stomach is a hearty portion of horse meat.

Finally, there’s simply the idea that a person walking a long distance would have severe pain in his heels (or feet), and his hunger is so intense that it is as bad as the pain from walking a long distance.

Regardless of where it comes from, this expression is a sure-fire way to communicate your need for nourishment (or perhaps a nice helping of horse).

 Use it like this

Je ne peux pas attendre plus longtemps dans cette longue file, j’ai l’estomac dans les talons. – I cannot wait in this long line much longer, I’m starving.

Je n’ai pas mangé le déjeuner hier et à 17h, j’avais l’estomac dans les talons. Tout le monde dans le bureau pouvait entendre mon estomac faire du bruit ! – I skipped lunch yesterday and by 5pm I was starving! Everyone in the office could hear my stomach making noise.