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French word of the day: Farfelu

Perhaps we’ve all become a bit more of this since the coronavirus lockdown started.

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

Why do I need to know farfelu?

Because it’s a great French expression for when you’re feeling a little weird, and that's okay.

What does it mean?

Farfelu is a adjective to describe someone with a bit of a quirky personality. 

It can mean ‘weird,’ ‘wacky’, ‘eccentric’, ‘extravagant’, ‘burlesque’, original or even ‘baroque’. Take your pick.

Une personne farfelue is 'a weirdo'.


If you have adopted unusual habits during the coronavirus lockdown – which, admit it, we all have – tu es peut-être devenu un peu farfelu(e) ? – Perhaps you have become a bit quirky?

L'autre jour j'ai chanté des chansons Britney Spears et bu du champagne toute seule pendant trois heures. Je suis devenue complètement farfelue ! – The other day I sang Britney Spears songs and drank champagne all by myself for three hours. I've become such a weirdo!

But mostly, farfelu is used as a way to say que quelque chose est dingue – that something is crazy.

For example: c'est une idée farfelue – that's a crazy (bad) idea

Une sortie farfelue is 'a crazy trip out', which in one article by French media Midi Libre referred to the oddest explanations people gave the police for having left their homes during lockdown.

The article was titled Les alibis les plus farfelus – The craziest (lousiest) alibis.

Among the listed achats farfelus (weird purchases) used to justify being outside for essential shopping were sun-screen, an indoor exercise bike and gluten free food.

Admittedly there is little farfelu about being gluten intolerant, but the police said never had they seen as many gluten allergic people out and about. 

Comportement farfelu? – Bizarre behaviour ?


Bizarre – odd

Original – original

Excentrique – excentric 

Fantasque – whimsical

Foufou – cray-cray

Lofoque – crazy

Dingue – crazy

Absurde – Absurd

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.