French word of the day: Guéguerre

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French word of the day: Guéguerre

A useful term to know ahead of election season in France.


Why do I need to know guéguerre?

Because it sounds similar to a word you probably already know, but its meaning is slightly different.

What does it mean?

If guerre is a serious word which refers to literal wars, then by repeating the first syllable (sort of – it sounds more like gay-gair), the word loses some of its gravitas, as if a child were trying to say the word guerre.

And that childish aspect is perfectly reflected in the meaning, too. A guéguerre is a quarrel, or a minor conflict, something its participants might think of as a war, but which is actually a lot more silly and juvenile. No more than a squabble.


It’s an informal term, but you’ll often see it used in the press - perhaps when the reporters themselves are questioning whether a particular spat is really worth covering. In recent months, it has been deployed for:

The Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team taunting Montreal Canadiens fans by projecting a photoshopped image of Celine Dion in the Las Vegas team’s jersey onto the jumbotron.

The intra-Alsatian rivalry between the Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin départements, over everything from wine to linguistic differences.

The long-standing antagonism between far-left politician Philippe Poutou and far-right pundit Eric Zemmour, with Poutou recently covering up Zemmour’s posters around the city of Bordeaux.

Use it like this

Le Mont-Saint-Michel est au centre d’une guéguerre entre la Normandie et la Bretagne – Mont-Saint-Michel is at the centre of a quarrel between Normandy and Brittany.

La guéguerre entre les deux hommes politiques dure depuis des années – The squabble between the two politicians has been going on for years.


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