For members


French expression of the day: Nuit blanche

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

French expression of the day: Nuit blanche

Why do I need to know nuit blanche?

If you're in Paris you will see this a lot this weekend, but the phrase also has a more timeless and general meaning that makes it worth knowing.

What does it mean?

Its literal translation is 'white night' but when its used in French it means 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.

The reason why it will seem familiar to those in Paris is that the city hosts an annual Nuit Banche in which the museums and art galleries stay open all night and there's a programme of all-night events. This year it is on Saturday, October 5th – if you're in Paris you can find out more about it here.


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

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

Il a enduré de nombreuses réunions tortueuses et qui ont fait une nuit blanche à Luxembourg pour tenter d'arriver à un résultat – They went through numerous torturous meetings and lost a night's sleep in Luxembourg trying to get this result.
Il y a une grande variété de musique réservée pour la nuit blanche – There's a great variety of music booked for the all-nighter.
For more French words and expressions, head to our French word of the Day section.

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For members


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.