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: Une vache à lait

This might sound like the cheese for children, but it actually has nothing to do with dairy products.

French Expression of the Day: Une vache à lait

Why do I need to know une vache à lait ?

Because if someone describes a potential investment opportunity like this, you might want to consider it.

What does it mean?

Une vache à lait – roughly pronounced oon vash ah lay – translates precisely to ‘a cow with milk’ or ‘a dairy cow.’ However, this phrase has little to do with farming, cheese, or milk.

In practice, une vache à lait is almost synonymous with the English term “cash cow” – or something or someone that is a moneymaker or source of profit. 

The phrase in French comes from the middle of the 16th century and evokes an image of a cow who is being milked without protest, allowing for the farmer to profit off of it. It was gradually extended to people and business ventures as a way of talking about profitability. 

Sometimes, this expression can have a negative connotation, particularly if a person is being called a vache à lait. This would be akin to saying that they are being financially exploited without realising it. 

Use it like this

L’achat de Snapchat a été une vache à lait pour Mark Zuckerberg et Facebook. – The purchase of Snapchat was a moneymaker for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Les parents ont été accusés d’utiliser leur enfant comme une vache à lait en l’inscrivant à des publicités. Ils ont trouvé cette accusation offensante. – The parents were accused of using their child as a cash cow by signing them up for commercials. They found this accusation offensive.