For members


French word of the day: Clope

You know how some things just feel more ok when you're in France than at home? This cherished French habit - albeit in decline - is one of them.

French word of the day: Clope
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know clope?

Because every self-respecting person living in France should know how to 'nick a fag/bum a smoke' in French.

What does it mean?

Clope is French slang for ‘cigarette’. Like the English 'smoke a cig', les français fument une clope.

French people love to smoke. Admittedly less now than before – the French too are increasingly worried about the health impacts of smoking – but anyone who has strolled down a street of Paris will have spotted elegant Parisians sipping their coffees while shamelessly puffing on a clope

Like fatty cheese and red wine, cigarettes somehow seem less harmful when in France, a statement of the French joie de vivre rather than what they actually are – a stick full of potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

So if you ever want to spice up your French vocab when asking to bum a cig, you could say 

Je peux te taxer une clope ? – Could I nick a fag?

Former French President Jacques Chirac enjoyed the occasional 'clope'. Photo: AFP

Where does it come from?

No one really knows. In the early 20th century clope meant ‘butt’ (of the cigarette), which slowly developed into a slang word referring to the whole thing.


Fumer une sèche – smoke a dry one

Fumer un mégot – smoke a cigarette butt

Fumer une cigarette – smoke a cgarette

Don’t use it like this..

Clope is something we can qualify as a tu-only word. If you’re addressing someone you would vouvoyer, you'd be safer sticking to: 

Vous n’auriez pas une cigarette, madame/monsieur ? – You wouldn’t have a cigarette by any chance, ma’am/sir?

Member comments

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


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.