For members


French word of the day: Gnangnan

It may look like we fell asleep on our keyboard, but this word does exist - and it's not the French version of Gangnam Style.

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

Why do I need to know gnangnan?

Because it’s the ultimate way of discarding something as boring in France.

What does it mean?

Gnangnan is pronounced ‘nyan-nyan’, which sounds like a double-yawn. In order to get it right, your voice needs to be thick and nasal, like this:

Gnangnan is an onomatopoeia, which means that it means exactly what it sounds like.

When something is gnagnang, it’s ‘boring’, ‘dull’, ‘listless’ – just thinking about it makes you want to fall asleep. It can be a party, an idea or whatever, anything that you would characterise as ‘unstimulating’.

French online dictionary l’Internaute defines gnangnan as mou, which is the French word for “soft” (and not in a good way). Someone who is gnangnan is “weak”, and “likes calm things without surprises”, it says. Being gnangnan can refer to complaining at the littlest effort.

It’s definitely colloquial, but it’s not vulgar. Sometimes people spell it gnan-gnan, gnian-gnian, nian-nian or gnagna. Generally, though, it’s gnagnan, even in its plural and feminine form.

Like many French words gnangnan is used differently by different people, and some use it to say that something is ‘corny’ or ‘cute’.

Use it like this

Je n’ai pas vraiment envie d’y aller, ses soirées sont toujours un peu gnangnan. – I don’t really want to go, her/his parties are always a bit dull.

J’étais surpris, je croyais qu’elle était vraiment gnangnan, mais elle a fait un super discours au parlement l’autre jour. – I was surprised, I thought that she was really uninspiring, but she gave a great speech in parliament the other day.

Je déteste les films gnangnan, ça me met mal à l’aise. – I hate corny movies, they make me uncomfortable.


Mièvre – childish and dull

Fade – dull

Lambin – slowpoke

Lent – slow

Member comments

  1. I’ve far more often heard the word “gnangnan” used to describe something cutesy or corny, as in “I can’t believe you’re still wearing those gnangnan pioneer dresses from the 70s – and not even ironically!”

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Un de ces quatres

The perfect response to that invitation you don't really want to say a firm yes to.

French Expression of the Day:  Un de ces quatres

Why do I need to know un de ces quatres?

Because you will probably hear this phrase while trying to make plans with someone in French

What does it mean?

Un de ces quatres – usually pronounced uhn duh say cat-truhs – translates exactly to “one of these fours.” If taken literally the phrase really does not make any sense in French or English. But in actuality, it means “one of these days,” “at some point,” or just “soon.”

This expression is a shortening of “one of these four mornings to come,” which was first used in the second half of the 19th century. It designates a time that is sometime in the near future, but still rather indeterminate.

In French, the number ‘four’ is often used in expressions to refer to imprecise, or small, quantities. Some people say this is because four is the number for the seasons and cardinal points (North, South, East, West), so saying ‘one of these four’ shows a level of ambiguity. But unfortunately we don’t really know exactly how (or why) this phrase arose.

If you want another way of saying this, you can always stick with the regular “un de ces jours” (one of these days).

Use it like this

J’ai été tellement occupée ces derniers temps mais nous devrons prendre un verre un de ces quatres. – I’ve been so busy lately, but we have to grab a drink one of these days.

Il m’a dit qu’il nettoierait la salle de bain un de ces quatres, donc je suppose que ça n’a pas encore été fait. – He told me he would clean the bathroom one of these days, so I guess it hasn’t been done yet.