For members


French word of the day: Retrouvailles

This French expression is what we are all looking forward to at the moment.

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

Why do I need to know this? 

It's been on everyone's lips in France lately, and last night the French government confirmed that we will get it for Christmas. Plus it's a generally useful expression.

What does it mean? 

Retrouvailles is probably best translated to 'reunion' in English. French online dictionary l'Internaute defines it as “meeting one person or several people after being separated from them”.

It comes from the French verb retrouver, which is directly translated as 'to find again'. Trouver means 'to find', re means 'again'.

However, se retrouver does not mean you're out looking for a friend in the woods – unless that's where you said you would meet.

On se retrouve au restaurant ? – Shall we meet up at the restaurant?

Des retrouvailles is always plural, even if you are talking about 'one reunion'.

Here in France, everyone has been talking about whether the government would scrap the planned retrouvailles en famille (family reunions) for the coming Christmas holiday, fearing opening for inter-regional travel and letting celebrations go ahead as planned would cause a third wave of Covid-19 infections before the second was over.

Last night the French government said the retrouvailles could go ahead as planned.


Use it like this

On a tous très hâte des retrouvailles familiales pour Noël. – We are all very excited for the Christmas family reunions.

Le gouvernement français a priorisé la joie des retrouvailles familiales des vacances, au risque d'une troisième vague Covid. – The French government has prioritised the joy of family reunions during the holidays, at the risk of a third wave of Covid. 

J'adore les scènes de retrouvailles à l'aéroport dans le film Love Actually. – I love the reunion scenes at the airport in the movie Love Actually.


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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire la java

This expression is one to use if you see someone looking a bit worse for wear.

French Expression of the Day: Faire la java

Why do I need to know faire la java?

Because you might be looking for a different way to describe the fun times you had last weekend.

What does it mean?

Faire la java usually pronounced fair lah jah-vah – translates literally as ‘to do the java,’ which refers to a popular dance from the early 1900s in France. However, these days, the phrase is a synonym for the more popular phrase ‘faire la fête’ which means to party, usually involving alcoholic beverages and minimal amounts of sleep.   

In the 1910s to 1920s, when the java dance was popular, it was typically performed at big parties. It’s unclear where the term ‘java’ came from, as it has no connection with the island of Java. The dance itself was quite scandalous at the time, and it was seen as overly sensual and risqué. Though the dance fell out of practice in the 1950s, the phrase remained in use, which is why you’ll probably still hear French people, especially those of the older generation, talking about their wild times ‘faisant la fava.’ 

If you’re curious what the dance was like, here is a clip:

Use it like this

J’étais tellement épuisée quand je me suis réveillée ce matin parce que hier soir on a fait la java. – I was so exhausted when I woke up this morning because last night we partied.

Mes voisins aiment faire la java, ce qui serait bien, mais ils font tellement de bruit les soirs de semaine. – My neighbours love to party, which would be fine, but they make so much noise on weeknights.