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Word of the day: Enième

Word of the day: Enième
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Getting a sense that you've seen it all before? Here's a quasi-scientific term for you.

Why do I need to know énième?

Because it’s useful when you want to say that something has happened a lot, without getting into specifics.

What does it mean?

Just as you can have deuxième, troisième, or quatrième (second, third or fourth), the word énième can replace any of these. It operates in the same way as “nth” does in English, standing in for a number in a series, even if the French term is rather more melodic.

Just like in English, the term can be used in a scientific context to denote an unspecified number in a series, or in general usage.

It’s more versatile in French, though, because it can also be used to emphasise repetition, in much the same way as the English word “umpteenth”. For example, Libération recently described “une énième réforme du bac” (an umpteenth reform to the end-of-school baccalaureate exam). In this case, it has negative connotations, since it suggests the government keeps trying, and failing, to find the right formula.

It is sometimes spelled nième, but always pronounced énième.

Use it like this

Il s’est fait virer pour la énième fois – He was fired for the umpteenth time

C’est une énième changement de plan – It’s an umpteenth change of plan


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