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French word of the day: Jeûne

This term has nothing to do with age - although some claim it's the key to staying young forever.

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

Why do I need to know jeûner?

Because even if the activity itself doesn't interest you, it will teach you something valuable about French everyday language.

What does it mean?

Jeune means 'young' in French, but switch the u and replace it with a û and it means 'fast'.

Jeûner – 'to fast' – refers to the activity of abstaining from eating and/or drinking for a certain period of time.

It comes from the Latin term jejenus, which means 'who has eaten nothing', according to French online dictionary Larousse.

Déjeuner, the French term for 'lunch', therefore literally means 'de-fast', or rompre le jeûne (breaking the fast) – like the English term 'breakfast'. 

Déjeuner used to refer to the first meal of the day, but was later supplemented by petit déjeuner in France (but some other French speaking countries still use déjeuner to talk about the first meal of the day). 

À jeun (at fast) is a term health professionals use when they want you to refrain from eating before a checkup.


Originally, le jeûne was usually part of a religious ritual, but today it's increasingly turning into a fitness trend – especially since several studies states its effets rajeunissants – rejuvenating effects. 

Use it like this

Il faut venir à jeun pour la prise du sang. – You must not eat before the blood test.

J'essaye de jeûner une fois par semaine, du coup je ne prends pas de petit déjeuner ce matin. – I'm trying to fast once a week, so I'm skipping breakfast this morning.

Non, Mélina ne va pas déjeuner avec nous ce midi, c'est Ramadan tu sais, elle va jeûner jusqu'au soir. – No, Mélina is not coming for lunch with us, it's Ramadan you know, she's fasting until nightfall.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Surprisingly, this phrase has nothing to do with beekeeping.

French Expression of the Day: Faire son miel

Why do I need to know faire son miel?

Because you might want to describe how you were able to buy a new wardrobe after the airline lost your luggage.

What does it mean?

Faire son miel – usually pronounced fair soan mee-ell – literally means to make your honey, or to make your own honey. In practice, this phrase actually means to take advantage of a situation, usually by turning a profit or to get the most out of a situation. 

The phrase comes from the idea that bees are actually profiteers: they take advantage of flowers in order to make honey. In the 16th century, this phrase was first put into use, and it followed the idea that bees fly up to the innocent flowers and steal their nectar and pollen for their own purposes. People began to use this as a way to describe people who take advantage of others or particular situations for their own benefit, or those who take things that do not belong to them.

Though the phrase is tied to the idea of turning a situation around for your own benefit, it is does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It can be used both for physical profit, or intellectual. It is somewhat similar to the English phrase of ‘making lemonade from lemons’ – taking a bad situation and making something good out of it.

In fact, French actually has another phrase that is quite similar to this one: faire son beurre, which is potentially even older than faire son miel

Use it like this

La compagnie aérienne a perdu nos sacs, avec tous nos vêtements dedans. Nous avons pu faire notre miel de la situation et acheter un nouvel ensemble de meilleurs vêtements avec l’argent de la compagnie aérienne! – The airline lost our bags, with all our clothes inside. We were able to take advantage of the situation by buying a whole new wardrobe on their dime!

Les oiseaux font leur miel de tous les nouveaux arbres plantés dans la ville. Ils profitent de ce nouvel espace pour faire leurs nids. – The birds are taking advantage of all the new trees being planted across the city. They are enjoying the new space to build their nests.

Le politicien a fait son miel des fonds supplémentaires et en a utilisé une partie pour son propre projet de construction. Ils pourraient le mettre en procès pour corruption. – The politician took advantage of the extra public funds for his own construction project. They might put him on trial for corruption.