For members


French word of the Day: Dom-Tom

No, it's not a Satnav system but you might find this useful to avoid getting lost.

French word of the Day: Dom-Tom
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know Dom-Tom?

Because you might end up in a bit of a geographical muddle if you don’t know what it means.

What does it mean?

Dom-Tom is an acronym, also written DOM-TOM and more recently substituted with DROM-COM.

It stands for Départements d’outre-mer et Territoires d’outre-mer. These days the correct formation is DROM-COM (Départements et regions d’outre mer et collectivities d’outre mer) but as often happens with official language changes the old formation lingers and is probably more widely used outside of government communications.

Either way, they all refer to the same thing – France’s overseas territories.

A legacy of empire, France has territoires d’outre-mer, which are largely self-governing, and départements d’outre-mer which are as much a part of France as Lyon, Lille or Lorient.

READ ALSO ‘Confetti of an empire’ – a look at France’s overseas territories

For this reason, data and information from the départements d’outre-mer are included in French statistics and reports. It’s important to realise the difference, however, unless you want to find yourself 9,000km away in the Indian Ocean (La Réunion) or 6,000km away in the Caribbean (Martinique).

Announcements about policies for France sometimes contain the caveat hors Dom-Tom – which means that different policies apply for the overseas areas.

For the sake of convenience, maps often show the DOMs on the left of the map, such as this one showing vaccination rates.

However, this does not mean that they are located off the coast of La Rochelle (some cruel commentators have suggested that the British government fell into this trap when it classified mainland France as ‘amber plus’ for travel because of the presence of the beta variant of Covid on the island of La Réunion, which is near Madagascar).

Use it like this

Les cas de Covid sont en baisse dans l’hexagone, mais en hausse dans les Dom-Tom – Covid cases are falling in the hexagon [mainland France] but rising in the overseas territories

Emmanuel Macron a annoncé un scénario d’urgence dans les Dom-Tom – Emmanuel Macron has announced a state of emergency in France’s overseas territories

Les régions les plus ensoleillées de France sont la Provence et la Côte d’Azur, et les Dom-Tom – The sunniest areas of France are Provence and the Côte d’Azur, and the overseas territories  

Member comments

  1. Spelling / orthographe
    Départements et regions d’outre mer et collectiVITÉS d’outre mer)

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For members


French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Procrastinators might be used to this expression.

French Expression of the Day: À la traîne

Why do I need to know à la traîne ?

Because you probably would prefer to be the opposite of this expression

What does it mean?

À la traîne – roughly pronounced ah lah trahynn – is actually nothing to do with trains.

It means to “lag behind” or to be “at the end” or “at the bottom of the class”. 

It is the opposite of the expression “en avance” which is used to describe the person or group ‘in the front’ or ‘at the top.’

The expression is likely derived from the verb ‘traîner’ in French means ‘to drag’ – usually used when a physical item is trailing behind.

You might see French media make use of this phrase when discussing a topic or theme that has been on the back-burner or less of a priority, as it is often ‘lagging behind’ other items.

Not to be confused with

This sounds similar to the phrase “en train de,” which has a totally different meaning – it means “in the process of” or “in the course of”.

Use it like this

Elle était à la traîne par rapport au reste de la classe dans l’apprentissage de la table de multiplication. – She is lagging behind the rest of the class in learning the multiplication table.

L’article explique que les salaires des enseignants sont toujours à la traîne par rapport à ceux des autres professions, notamment en ce qui concerne les augmentations de salaire. – The article explains that teachers’ salaries are always trailing behind those of other professions, particularly concerning pay raises.