For members


French word of the day: Casse-croûte

The French don't snack, but there are delicious exceptions to the rule.

French word of the day: Casse-croûte
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know casse-croûte?

Because it's a delightful way to break up the dullness of lockdown and add some tasty French culinary joy to the casse-tête of a coronavirus emergency we're in the midst of.

What does it mean?

Casse-croûte literally translates to 'break-crust' but it's really a snack.

But.. I thought the French don't snack?

You're right, they don't. But a casse-croûte is the delicious exception to the rule. (Anyone who has studied the French language will know that there are always – always – exceptions to all rules.)

READ ALSO: Eleven phrases that will let you complain like the French



A casse-croûte can be most things except for a real meal. It's one of the few French food traditions that does not follow strict rules (breakfast being sweet, lunch being at 1pm, cheese coming after dinner – the list is long).

T'as prévu un casse-croûte pour la route? – Did you bring a sandwich for the road?

J'ai tellement faim, je me fais un petit casse-croûte. – I'm so hungry, I'm going to make a small snack before dinner. 


Casse-dalle means the same. Dalle means hunger (a lot of it). Avoir la dalle means 'starving'.

Encas is another option, which probably comes from the expression en cas de, which loosely translates to 'just in case'.

There's also collation, which can mean a 'light meal'. 

Other ways of saying casse-croûte are goûter or snack, however goûter specifically designates the 4pm snack that French children (and some adults) eat, which usually consists of a sweet treat. There's less leeway with a goûter than a casse-croûte.

Snack is less used, plus it's an English reference that would not fly particularly well with the French language guardians at Académie Française.

READ ALSO: 11 'French' words that aren't really French at all



Member comments

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