For members


French word of the day: Flambé

This French term is about more than just dessert (unfortunately).

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

Why do I need to know flambé?

Because if you don't know its second meaning, you might think people are bringing up sweet treats in odd settings. 

What does it mean?

Cêpes suzette, crème brulée or even omelette Norvégienne –  all are delicious desserts and all are flambé (flamed or burned).

But flambé can mean more than just faire brûler (burn) something.

The verb flamber has two meanings, one of which is 'to burn'. The other is 'to increase rapidly', so similar to the English terms 'flare up', 'shoot up' or 'rocket'.

For example: les prix flambent – prices are rocketing.

Similarly, une flambée refers to 'a hike', 'a flare-up' or 'an outbreak'.

So when the French health minister is talking about la flambée épidémique, it is (sadly) a much more serious message than that you should enjoy some sweet treats due to the Covid virus. Actually, he is talking about 'the epidemic flare-up', which in this setting generally means the Covid-19 virus is spreading at an increasingly rapid pace.

Use it like this

Le coronavirus flambe en France depuis quelques jours. – The coronavirus has been spreading extremely quickly in France over the past few days.

A cause de l'épidémie Covid on voit une flambée du nombre de chomeurs. – Because of the Covid epidemic we're seeing the number of unemployed rocket.

Après une flambée de contaminations ils ont dû fermer l'école. – After an flare-up of contaminations they had to close the school.

Pendant le confinement on a pu observer une flambée des apéros-skype. – During lockdown we saw the number of Skype drinks explode.


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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.