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Word of the day: Dégringolade

One of those French words that rolls off the tongue

Word of the day: Dégringolade

Why do I need to know dégringolade?

Because you’ve probably come across it in a few different contexts – and it’s fun to pronounce.

What does it mean?

It comes from the verb dégringoler, which means to drop, plunge or tumble. A dégringolade is a rapid and sudden decline or deterioration.

According to the CNRTL (Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales), the word comes from the Dutch word crinkelen (to make curl), from crinc (ring, circle). A dégringolade therefore a kind of spiralling descent.

Dégringolade can also be used figuratively to talk about someone’s fall from grace, humiliation or downfall. In politics, it’s also used to talk about a party that has lost a large amount of voters.

Use it like this

Une entreprise en pleine dégringolade – The business is in the throes of a tumble

Le taux d’incidence poursuit sa dégringolade – The incidence rate continues to plummet

Depuis la révélation de sa corruption, ce fut la dégringolade pour ce politicien – Since the corruption scandal was revealed, this politician has suffered a fall from grace

Le PCF n’a fait que dégringoler depuis nombreuses années – Electoral support for the PCF has been declining for several years


Chute – fall

Effondrement – collapse

Dévaler – hurtle down

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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.