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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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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.