French expression of the day: Soupe au lait

French expression of the day: Soupe au lait
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In France, milk soup means there are people around who might be a little too easily offended.

Why do I need to know soupe au lait?

In case you are around someone who can be a little hotheaded for no reason, but you want to be nice about it and not offend them.

What does it mean?

Soupe au lait literally translates to 'milk soup', but French people use it to describe a person who is a little hotheaded.

While it may not sound like a very nice thing to call someone, it's actually quite a loving way to talk about a person who easily gets offended.


The expression found its origin in French cuisine. A soupe au lait is an old-fashioned recipe that consists of milk boiled with onions, bread and butter. Alternatively just milk and bread or with fruits and spices. 


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Milk soup is not something you will find on menus in most French restaurants today, and the expression itself dates back to the 19th century, when monter comme une soupe au lait was used to describe the moment when the milk boils to the point of overflowing. 

When used about a person, soupe au lait is a metaphor for exactly that: someone who suddenly gets angry and calms down again, just as rapidly as boiling milk descends when taken off the stove.

Use it like this

Il est très fatigué en ce moment et cela le rend très soupe au lait ! – He’s very tired at the moment and that makes him quite short-tempered!

A chaque fois qu’on te dit quelque chose tu t’emportes, tu es vraiment soupe au lait ! – Every time we tell you something you get offended, you’re really short-tempered!


Colérique – bad-tempered  

Susceptible – easily offended

Irascible – short-tempered

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