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French word of the day: Hopla!

It’s one of those oh-so-French sounds that occasionally pops up in France.

French word of the day: Hopla!

Why do I need to know hopla?

If you have lived in France for a while, you will have noticed a fair few French words that are really more sounds than words – things like pfff, bah, oh là là or miam. These sounds are deeply integrated in a French person’s everyday vocabulary, are loaded with meaning and will really give your language that casual, conversational feel.

Hopla is another of these frequently used sounds. 

What does it mean?

Pronounced with a silent h, a sharp p and a lingering a, hopla (also spelled hop-là), hopla is a way of bringing attention to what you do.

It does however have slightly different meanings depending on the context.

You might have heard a waiter say hopla as he puts your plate down. In this case it's like saying voilà – there you go. 

It can also mean attention, or oops. 

Let’s say that you bump into a stranger on the street. By exclaiming hopla, you alert the other person that this was an accident and you did not intend to be rude – nor do you accuse them of being the one responsible for the accidental bumping. Here, hopla is a disarmer.

Other variants

Hop is a word French people use for encouragement, like 'come on' or 'go!'.

Picture a swimming class where the participants are supposed to dive in one after the other. The teacher will say et hop ! – And go! – between each participant.

A mother might tell her teenager son Allez-hop! On range – Come on, let's clean up. 

If you hear hop hop hop, it means you're in trouble.

Someone could say this to you today if you tried to snatch a piece of the special Galette de Rois before the person hiding under the table had decided who would get the piece. Confused? Read this to learn about the peculiar French tradition.

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For members


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.