French Expression of the Day: Nuit blanche

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French Expression of the Day: Nuit blanche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Whether you're planning a night on the tiles or want to complain about being tired, this French expression will come in handy.


Why do I need to know nuit blanche?

Because your French friend might use this phrase to explain why they were late to work.

What does it mean?

Nuit blanche - roughly pronounced noo-wee blahn-sh - literally translates as 'white night', but in practice the phrase actually refers to a sleepless night.

It can be used in a positive sense if you're staying up until the dawn and going to an all-night event or in a negative sense if you want to have a moan about not getting a wink of sleep the night before.

You might see this phrase on posters across the city of Paris at certain times of the year, as the city hosts an annual 'Nuit Blanche' event in which the museums and art galleries stay open all night and there's a programme of all-night events.

But the phrase itself can be used all year round either if you're planning an all-nighter or if you've had a night that hasn't involved much shut-eye.

In a more general sense the word blanc/blanche is often used to mean something that is null or void, in addition to its more usual meaning of white. So  a season that was a total write-off might be une saison blanche.


Use it like this

Après une nuit blanche avec le bébé, il est arrivé en retard au travail ce matin - After a sleepless night with the baby, he was late for work this morning.

Je me suis dit que j'arriverais tôt et que je ferais une nuit blanche. Je voulais être le premier à faire la queue. - I told myself I would get there early and pull an all nighter. I wanted to be the first in line.


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