French phrase of the day: Avoir du culot

French phrase of the day: Avoir du culot
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This French expression has nothing to do with your underpants, even if it sounds like it does.

Why do I need to know avoir du culot?

Because it's a common, colloquial expression.

What does it mean?

Avoir du culot translates as 'to have' culot.

Not to be confused with culotte (knickers), culot can mean 'bottom', 'base', 'butt', 'gall' or other things, depending on the context. For this purpose, however, it means 'nerve'.

Avoir du culot is common French way of saying someone is 'brash' or 'blunt'. It can also imply they are (sometimes overly) 'self-confident', 'gutsy' and 'courageous'.

As so many French personality traits, you HAVE rather than ARE culot, just like avoir du cran (being gutsy), avoir froid (being cold) or avoir faim (being hungry).

Culot is colloquial, much more so than its English closest equivalent 'having some nerve'. If you want to be more formal, you would use aplomb instead. For example, ne pas manquer d'aplomb translates as 'not lacking audacity', and means 'to have some nerve'.

Avoir du culot can be both a compliment and an insult, or both at the same time. It all depends on the context.

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Use it like this

Tu as beaucoup de culot me dire ça après ce que tu m'as fait. – You have a lot of nerve to tell me that after what you did to me.

Elle a vraiment du culot, celle-là. Elle n'a peur de rien et elle dit toujours ce qu'elle pense. – She really has some nerve, that one. She is not afraid of anything and she always says what she thinks.

Il faut avoir du culot pour lancer sa propre entreprise au milieu d'une pandemie. – It takes guts to start your own business in the midst of a pandemic.

Quel culot ils ont, ces gens-là ! – What nerve they have, these people!


The synonyms below are close to avoir du culot, but culot implies a more prominent brashness than these.

Avoir de l'audace – to be brave

Avoir du cran – to be brave

Avoir du courage – being brave

Member comments

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  1. Surely, the closest (UK) English equivalent is “to have (some) balls”?

    The British journalist Katy Balls “speaks to women at the top of their respective games, about their passions, their battles, and what makes them tick.”
    The podcasts are called “Women with Balls”

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