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Word of the day: Poireauter

Tomber dans les pommes, s'occuper de ses oignons, ramener sa fraise...The French love their expressions with fruit and vegetables. Here’s another to add to the list.

Word of the day: Poireauter
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know poireauter?

Because it’s a colloquialism you may hear in conversation and wrongly assume people are talking about vegetables or cooking.

What does it mean?

Poireauter comes from poireau (leek), but has nothing to do with food. It’s an expression used to describe when someone is waiting or hanging around, usually by standing somewhere without doing anything. 


The expression faire poireauter quelqu’un (to keep someone waiting) seems to have originated in rural France in the 19th century, and refers to the method used in growing leeks, which have to grow their roots deep in the ground in order to grow vertically during the winter. The farmers of the time came up with the expression faire le poireau (to behave like a leek) to describe someone who stands around doing nothing. It later evolved into the verb poireauter.

Use it like this

Nous étions une dizaine à poireauter devant le magasin – There were about ten of us standing around in front of the shop

Ma sœur m’a fait poireauter comme d’habitude. Elle est toujours en retard. – My sister kept me waiting as usual. She’s always late.


Attendre – to wait

Faire le pied de grue – to cool one’s heels


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French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

You'll definitely need this phrase as the temperature rises.

French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

Why do I need to know faire trempette?

Because you might need this phrase to describe that urge to jump in the water once the temperature hits a certain degree this summer.

What does it mean?

Faire trempette – usually pronounced fair trahm-pet – literally means ‘to make dipping sauce’ because the word ‘trempette’ is actually a condiment, or a dip, typically used for raw vegetables. In Canada, the dip is popular, and quite similar to Ranch dressing – a great addition to your crudités (vegetable snacks). 

But this phrase does not have anything to do with your healthy finger-food – in the colloquial sense, the phrase faire trempette actually means to take a dip – as in to go swimming.  

The way the expression came to become about swimming and not eating is pretty logical – in the 1600s a ‘trempette’ was a slice of bread dipped in liquid. As time went on people started to say ‘faire la trempette’ to describe the action of dipping food in liquid – like bread into wine – prior to taking a bite.

It became the metaphorical way of talking about taking a very short bath in the 19th century and now it’s the best way to reference the urge to  splash around for a second before heading back to the lounge chairs to tan. 

While you may  not have heard of this phrase before, you’ve definitely heard its synonym: the verb ‘se baigner’ (‘to bathe,’ but more so used as ‘to swim’). 

Use it like this

Comme la température augmente, je suis encore plus tentée d’aller faire trempette dans le canal. – As the temperature gets higher, I am even more tempted to go take a dip in the canal. 

Je pense que je vais faire trempette et ensuite m’allonger pour bronzer au soleil pendant un moment. – I think I will take a dip and then lay out to tan for a bit.