French word of the day: Molle

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 17 Feb, 2021 Updated Wed 17 Feb 2021 13:52 CEST
French word of the day: Molle

This little world has been the source of big controversy in France lately.


Why do I need to know molle?

Because it's key to understand a current much-debated French political controversy, but also generally useful.

What does it mean?

Molle is a French adjective that means 'soft', 'slack', 'limp' or 'weak' depending on the context.

It's pretty perfect linguistically because you can say molle even while keeping your mouth all molle (floppy).

The masculine version is mou, moux when plural, molles when plural feminine.

If the earth is molle, it means that it is soft and easily crumbles under pressure. A soft, lethargic handshake is molle. A market can be mou, if there is period of inactivity. If science is molle, it means that it is based on theories that are not solid and need empirical backing. 

A person can also be also be molle, if their ideas, politics or stance are 'wobbly', 'lack severity', 'too imprecise' or 'too soft'.

The reason why the word is so timely right now, is because French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin during a debate with Marine Le Pen, called the far-right party leader "un peu molle".

"I find you a bit soft," the interior minister said, when referring to Le Pen's stance towards Islam in France. 



Being too soft on Islam is not a criticism the far-right leader encounters on a daily basis and the comment spurred a fierce debate in France, although it takes on a very different complexion when you watch the fuller clip - essentially Darmanin is calling Le Pen a hypocrite for pretending to support all religions when her party is fiercely Islamophobic.

OPINION: Want to start a quarrel in France? Mention Islam


In general, being mou or molle is not a great thing unless you're a cheese.

It's not the same as douce (doux for men), which is a compliment you give someone who is really nice and polite: elle est toute douce ! - She's so lovely!

Use it like this

Ma mère est toujours trop molle avec ses petits-enfants. C'était autre chose lorsque j'étais petite. - My mother is always too soft with her grandchildren. It was something else when I was little.
Sa poignée de main était toute molle. Il n'y avait aucune énergie. - His handshake was all soft. There was no energy.
Sa tarte n'était pas mauvaise mais la pâte était un peu molle. - His pie was not bad but the dough was a bit soft.
Il est gentil mais il est mou du genou. Je préfère les mecs énergiques. - He's nice but a bit of a slacker. I prefer energetic guys. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

[email protected] 2021/02/17 15:54
In light of the scheduled landing of Perseverance on Mars tomorrow, please can tomorrow's word of the day be 'amarsissage'

See Also