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French word of the day: Grisaille

As the summer comes to an end, you're bound to see more of this French word.

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

Why do I need to know grisaille?

Because whether it is to talk about the gloomy sky or a dull atmosphere, the French love to use it.

What does it mean?

Grisaille translates to 'greyness' or 'dullness' and is a versatile word that can mean different things depending on the context.

It is usually used to describe cloudy and grey weather, but it can also be a way of characterising a situation as 'colourless', 'monotonous', 'gloomy' or 'dull'.

The French often refer to the grisaille parisienne, which can be translated as ‘the grey everyday in Paris’ (as life can be both quite tedious and stressful in the capital when you're established there and not visiting as a tourist).

READ ALSO: Why I love the French habits of scolding and complaining 

In art, grisaille describes a painting that is composed of grey tones only.

Use it like this

Viens nous rejoindre dans le Sud pour échapper à la grisaille parisienne ! – Come join us in the South to escape the grey everyday in Paris!

Cette grisaille donne beaucoup de cachet à ce tableau. – These grey tones give a lot of character to this painting.

La grisaille quotidienne nous empêche d’être heureux, changeons les choses ! – Gloomy daily life prevents us from being happy, let's change things!


Monotonie – Monotony

Morosité – Gloominess

Mélancolie – Melancholy

Tristesse – Sadness

By Olivia Sorrel Dejerine

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For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women