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French expression of the day: Clin d’œil

Wether you want to seduce someone or just acknowledge them, 'eye flashes' are usually a good way to go in French.

French expression of the day: Clin d'œil
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know clin d'œil?

Because its meaning changes so much depending on the context (you don't want to mistake it for flirting if it's actually something quite different).

What does it mean?

Clin d'œil means 'wink of eye' – clin is French for 'wink' or 'flash' and d'œil means 'of eye' – and is the expression to use when talking about the universal gesture ;-).


Cligner is the French verb for 'to wink', but when you talk about winking at someone the right phrasing is 'to do an eye wink at someone' – faire un clin d'œil à quelqu'un.

Use it like this

clin d'œil as in the physical gesture of closing one eye can have somewhat of a sexual undertone, and whether it's appropriate depends on the relationship between the person doing the gesture and the one on the receiving end.

However the linguistic use of clin d'œil is not necessarily sexual.

For example, Un clin d'œil à Barack Obama pour avoir fait confiance aux jeunes, translates better to 'A shoutout at Barack Obama for putting trust in young people' rather than 'A wink at..'.

In fact, depending on the context a clin d'œil can mean something closer to a 'nod to' or 'shoutout to' something or someone.

It can also be a wink of complacency or agreement. For example, if you, like many people in Marseille, did not want the Paris-Saint-Germain football club to win the Champions League final, you could say:

Petit clin d'œil à tous les Marseillais qui ne voulaient pas que le PSG gagne ! – Little shout-out to the people from Marseille who did not want the PSG to win!

En un clin d'œil also means 'in the blink of an eye' (very quickly) and sometimes French media use clin d'œil to say 'flash', or 'in brief', or 'quick look'.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener