French word of the day: Chauve-souris

French word of the day: Chauve-souris
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
It's got nothing to do with baldness.

Why do I need to know chauve-souris?

They're scary, or cute, depending on your point of view. Find them in Transylvanian castles, Gotham City or, more likely, on an evening stroll through the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in Paris. There's 34 species of them in France…

What does it mean?

You've probably guessed it, chauve-souris means 'bat'.

When you break it down though, what you're saying literally means bald (chauve) mouse (souris).

Bald mice might sound like an odd name for bats, but there may be a reason behind it. The theory goes that bats were originally referred to in Latin as 'owl mice', which makes more sense given their nocturnal lifestyle. However at some point the Latin word for owl (cavannus) got mixed up with the world for bald (calvus) and that distortion made its way into the French we speak today.


The fancy, technical name for chauve-souris is chiroptera, but that's used mainly in a scientific context.

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