French word of the day: Flâner

French word of the day: Flâner
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Essential in your French vocabulary, this word will make you want to stretch your legs and rediscover your surroundings.

Why do I need to know flâner?

As one of those untranslatable words that help to describe a way of living, the word flâner has even been described as “the word that encapsulates Frenchness”.

What does it mean?

Flâner means to wander aimlessly. The closest translation would be to stroll, but in no particular direction, just for the pleasure of taking in one’s surroundings. The person doing this is called a flâneur or flâneuse.

The word is often associated with the city, and more specifically with Paris. In the second half of the 19th century, the French capital went through a huge transformation (Hausmann’s renovation) that improved quality of life by widening streets and introducing large avenues, where people from all social backgrounds suddenly passed each other on the street. This brought with it a desire for discovery. 

Flâner is enjoying the anonymity provided by the modern city.

Use it like this

J’ai passé l’après-midi à flâner sur la plage – I spent the afternoon strolling along the beach

Vous remontez en flânant les Champs Elysées et vous arrivez à la place de l’Étoile – Wander up the Champs Elysées and you will arrive at the Place de l’Étoile

Je n’ai pas le temps de flâner, je dois aller travailler! – I don’t have time for a stroll, I need to get to work!


Boulevarder – flâner, but more specifically on boulevards

Déambuler – Very similar to flâner: to stroll with no destination in mind

Errer – to wander, to roam

Se promener – to go for a walk


Member comments

  1. To flaner around the city is a wonderful way to experience life. You not only see the little shops and street vendors, but it’s a great people-watching experience once you tune out your cellphone and your worries. I’ve seen both les flaneurs and flaneuses get in the groove, enjoy seeing others and being seen, and relaxing while still being active. You unwind enough to smell the flowers, smell the books in some old shop, and enjoy casual greetings with strangers that often have an air of flirtation that both enjoy. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. A therapeutic way to stop being uptight, re-connect with life, with people, and your surroundings especially in a new city.

  2. I can’t help but point out the difference between the street experience for men vs. women. It’s hard to be a flaneuse, because we women must always be watchful of who’s around us. With social distancing, men are now experiencing the way women have always been in public: notice who’s around you, make sure someone is not too close, and be prepared to change your route if some guy looks like he might be troublesome.

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