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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



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For members


French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Procrastinators might be used to this expression.

French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Why do I need to know à la traîne ?

Because you probably would prefer to be the opposite of this expression

What does it mean?

À la traîne – roughly pronounced ah lah trahynn – is actually nothing to do with trains.

It means to “lag behind” or to be “at the end” or “at the bottom of the class”. 

It is the opposite of the expression “en avance” which is used to describe the person or group ‘in the front’ or ‘at the top.’

The expression is likely derived from the verb ‘traîner’ in French means ‘to drag’ – usually used when a physical item is trailing behind.

You might see French media make use of this phrase when discussing a topic or theme that has been on the back-burner or less of a priority, as it is often ‘lagging behind’ other items.

Not to be confused with

This sounds similar to the phrase “en train de,” which has a totally different meaning – it means “in the process of” or “in the course of”.

Use it like this

Elle était à la traîne par rapport au reste de la classe dans l’apprentissage de la table de multiplication. – She is lagging behind the rest of the class in learning the multiplication table.

L’article explique que les salaires des enseignants sont toujours à la traîne par rapport à ceux des autres professions, notamment en ce qui concerne les augmentations de salaire. – The article explains that teachers’ salaries are always trailing behind those of other professions, particularly concerning pay raises.