French Word of the Day: rude

For the first of The Local's French Word of the Day series we look at what the French mean when they use the word 'rude'. And it's very different to how it's used in English.

French Word of the Day: rude
Photo: Depositphotos
Why have we chosen the word “rude”? 
In the French press last year, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was quoted as describing this year's race as “rude”
This tricky false friend is commonly used and often used in the French headlines (see below) which got us thinking about what it really means, which is very different from “bad-mannered” or “impolite”.
So, what exactly did Prudhomme mean?
Prudhomme's full quote was, “C'était un Tour de France rude”.
Looking back at the tournament, he said that it was “rude” in many respects, which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who followed cyclist Chris Froome's anti-doping case which preceded the event, the use of tear gas at a farmers' protest, the verbal abuse of Team SKY riders, which temporarily halted the race and the accusations of French bashing.
While the French word “rude” can translate as “tough” or “gruelling”, Prudhomme didn't just mean physically for the riders but everything that went around it.
So in this case we could probably favour synonyms for “tough” such as “difficult”, “arduous”, “testing” or even “challenging”.
It is often used in French with “rude épreuve” which would translate as “tough test” or “harsh test”.

But it has other meanings…
One of the reasons “rude” can be such a tricky word to translate is due to the fact that it has multiple meanings — none of which are the same as its English counterpart. 
In a different context, for example, it can mean “tremendous”, “formidable” and “impressive”. 
And if it is being used to describe someone's appetite as in “un rude appétit”, it means “healthy appetite.” 
Here are some examples of how to use “rude” in everyday French. 
1. Le manque d'eau dans les régions arides rend la vie rude.
The lack of water in arid regions makes life hard.
2. Ce joueur est rude en mêlée.
This player is formidable in the scrum.
3. Ton frère a un rude appétit!
Your brother has a formidable appetite!
(All examples from
If you have a tricky French word you want us to include in our French Word of the Day series, please email [email protected]

French phrases that language learners just don't getPhoto: Gustavofrazao/Depositphotos

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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.