For members


French word of the day: Tollé

This little word can have a big impact in France.

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

Why do I need to know tollé?

Because it describes something that is very common in France.

What does it mean?

The French term tollé translates as ‘outcry’ or ‘uproar’, and refers to an expressed sentiment of discontent by a group of people. It can also mean ‘backlash’ depending on the context.

It is masculine noun, so it’s le tollé, which means ‘the outcry’.

It has biblical origins, from the Latin word tolle used about when a Jewish group demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. 

French online dictionary Larousse defines it as a “cry of indignation” or a “protest full of anger”. But it  doesn’t need to be actual street protests, it can be general discontent expressed virtually, through media or social media platforms.

Un tollé is something you generally want to avoid if you’re in power, but it can be a good thing if you’re trying to provoke change.

If you read “face au tollé..” in a French news article, it means ‘faced with the uproar’ or ‘faced with a backlash’, and often the sentence will continue on saying that the individual or group facing the tollé has changed their mind.

For example, French newspaper Le Figaro titled an article this week “Face au tollé, l’éxécutif maintient les élections régionales en juin“, which means “Faced with an uproar, the president keeps the regional elections in June”. This came after mayors and political opponents made their discontent heard after President Emmanuel Macron considered postponing the elections due to the health situation.

Use it like this

Cette loi va provoquer un tollé. – This law will cause an uproar.

Face au tollé, ils ont fait machine arrière – Faced with a backlash, they went back on their decision.

Imagine le tollé si le film sortait aujourd’hui ! – Imagine the uproar if the film came out today!


Clameur – clamour

Protestation – protest

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

This is definitely not lip synching.

French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

Why do I need to know Chanter faux ?

Because if you were not blessed with a beautiful singing voice, then this might be a good phrase to know. 

What does it mean?

Chanter faux – pronounced shahn-tay foe – literally means to ‘fake sing.’ You might assume this expression would mean ‘lip sync’ in French, but its true meaning is to sing out of tune. (Lip synching is chanter en playback).

It joins a chorus of other French expressions about bad singing, like chanter comme une casserole (to sing like a saucepan) or chanter comme une seringue (to sing like a siren).  

Chanter faux is actually the most correct way to describe someone being off key, so it might be a better option than comparing another’s voice to a cooking utensil. 

You might have seen this expression pop up recently amid the drought, as people call for rain dances and rain singing (where there is no shame in singing badly).

Use it like this

Pendant l’audition pour la pièce, Sarah a chanté faux. Malheureusement, elle n’a pas obtenu le rôle. – During her audition for the play, Sarah sang out of tune. Sadly, she did not get a role.

Si on fait un karaoké, tu verras comme je chante mal. Je chante vraiment faux, mais je m’en fiche. Il s’agit de s’amuser. – If we do karaoke you will see how badly I sing. I am really out of tune, but I don’t care. It’s all about having fun.