For members


French word of the day: Bras de fer

Want to wrestle? Read this to learn how to strong-arm someone in French.

French word of the day: Bras de fer
Why do I need to know bras de fer?

It pops up all the time in French media whenever there is some sort of conflict.

What does it mean?

The expression bras de fer means strong-arming someone, sometimes literally. In that case, the expression refers to the physical exercise of arm-wrestling, where two people place their elbows on a table, clench their fists and try to force the others' arm onto the table.

Today, bras de fer is mostly used in a symbolic manner to show that someone is preparing for a use of force.

A French online dictionary defines bras de fer as a “brief collision between two people, without any possibility of discussion or negotiation” – which one could say is true for both the symbolic version of the term and a real, physical arm-wrestling match.

Bras de fer is a recurrent expression in French media. For instance, the headline of an article published today on the news website La Depeche describes the ongoing pension reform conflict like this:

Bras de fer sur la réforme des retraites –  [The government is] standing firm on the pension reform.

Another article by the independent investigative news website Mediapart uses the expression to describe how a French supermarket pressured their employees to work after 1pm on Sundays:

Hypermarché ouvert le dimanche après-midi: le bras de fer continue – Hypermarket keeps open Sunday afternoons: the strong-arming continues.

Last but not least:

After a 10-year-long legal battle, a Cantal farmer was sentenced to pay a €8,000 fine to his neighbors as a compensation for his cows' strong scent.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Being patronised by a Frenchman? Roll out this phrase.

French phrase of the Day: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines

Why do I need to know ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines?

Because someone might be trying to take you for a fool.

What does it mean?

Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines – pronounced ne me pren pah pour un lapan de see sem-enn – translates as ‘don’t take me for a six-week-old rabbit’, and is a go-to phrase to warn people not to mistake you for a fool, someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

The podcast Hit West from French regional newspaper Ouest-France suggests that the ‘six weeks’ comes from the age a rabbit is weaned at, and must therefore be ready to survive on its own.

And why a rabbit at all? Well no-one really seems very sure. Rabbits don’t get a good rap in the French language though, to stand someone up is poser un lapin in French.

English-language metaphor equivalents may be, “I didn’t come down in the last shower”, “I wasn’t born yesterday”, or, as Line of Duty’s DCI Hastings might say, “I didn’t float up the Lagan in a bubble”.

Use it like this

Honestly, keep it simple. If someone’s speaking to you in a patronising manner, simply say: Ne me prends pas pour un lapin de six semaines.

Ouest France suggests that this is the ‘more elegant’ way to request that people don’t take you for a fool. It’s not offensive, but it might be a little old-fashioned. 


You can use the more basic version of this phrase – Ne me prends pas pour une idiote (don’t take me for a fool) or the slightly more punchy Ne me prends pas pour un con (don’t take me for a moron).