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French word of the day: Fainéant

January is typically a month for feeling a bit like this French expression.

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

Why do I need to know fainéant?

Because it's a great way to say you'd rather just spend the day in bed.

What does it mean?

Fainéant, pronounced 'fénya', is French for 'lazy'.

French online dictionary l'Internaute defines fainéant as a “person who does nothing or wants to do nothing” – kind of like this dog:


It can also be spelled feignant, and both versions are correct.

Fainéant can be both a noun and an adjective, so une fainéante is 'a lazy (female) person', and so is une personne fainéante.

It comes from the verb faire (to do) and néant (not doing anything). Historically, the term was used about Merovingian kings – des rois fainéants – who rules France until 751, when they, under pressure, handed over the power to subordinates.

It can be interchangeably used with paresseux, which means the same.

Use it like this

J'ai un peu honte, ça fait trois mois que j'ai un abonnement à la salle de sport, mais je suis trop fainéant pour y aller. – I'm a bit ashamed, for three months I've had a gym subscription, but I'm too lazy to go.

C'est un gros fainéant. Il ne le fera pas sauf si tu lui mets beaucoup de pression. – He's a huge sloth. He wont do it unless you put a lot of pressure on him.

Il est gentil, mais je ne vois pas mon futur avec lui. Il est trop fainéant, j'ai besoin de quelqu'un qui bouge. – He's nice, but I don't see a future with him. He's too lazy, I need someone who acts.


Flemmard – a lazy person (who has la flemme)

Paresseux – sloth/lazy

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French Expression of the Day: Avoir l’estomac dans les talons

A sensation you might feel around midi after skipping your morning croissant.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir l'estomac dans les talons

Why do I need to know avoir l’estomac dans les talons?

Because you might want to inform your friend waiting in the long restaurant line with you about just how hungry you actually are.

What does it mean?

Avoir l’estomac dans les talons usually pronounced ah-vwar leh-sto-mack dahn lay tah-lonn – literally means to have the stomach in the heels, but it really just means that you are extremely hungry. A British-English equivalent might be ‘my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut’.

As with saying ‘I’m starving’ you wouldn’t use this to talk about people who are genuinely at risk of starvation, it’s just a phrase to complain about being hungry and wanting something to eat.

The expression probably originated around the end of the 19th century, and there are a couple of different ideas about how it came to be.

The first is that it’s intended to paint a picture of your stomach narrowing so much that it goes all the way down to your heels. The second idea proposes that since ‘les talons’ (heels) is a homonym with ‘l’étalon’ (stallion), the phrase might actually be referring to horse meat. You might be so hungry that the only thing that could possibly satiate your empty stomach is a hearty portion of horse meat.

Finally, there’s simply the idea that a person walking a long distance would have severe pain in his heels (or feet), and his hunger is so intense that it is as bad as the pain from walking a long distance.

Regardless of where it comes from, this expression is a sure-fire way to communicate your need for nourishment (or perhaps a nice helping of horse).

 Use it like this

Je ne peux pas attendre plus longtemps dans cette longue file, j’ai l’estomac dans les talons. – I cannot wait in this long line much longer, I’m starving.

Je n’ai pas mangé le déjeuner hier et à 17h, j’avais l’estomac dans les talons. Tout le monde dans le bureau pouvait entendre mon estomac faire du bruit ! – I skipped lunch yesterday and by 5pm I was starving! Everyone in the office could hear my stomach making noise.