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French Word of the Day: Claquer

It might be an attack, but this French verb has a lot of secondary meanings, some of them quite pleasant.

French Word of the Day: Claquer
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know the word claquer? 

Because it is extremely common and has a wide range of uses. 

What does it mean? 

Claquer (pronounced ‘clack-eh’) is a French verb whose most common use means to slap.

But it has a number of secondary uses – to click, slam, bang, rattle and clack. Basically, it is used to signify an action so forceful that you can hear it making one of those sounds. Say it aloud: the word itself is onomatopoeic. 

It can also be used in a more metaphorical sense to reflect not a physical blow but a disappointment – like the English metaphorical ‘slap in the face’ or to describe something like a drink that has ‘a kick’ or ‘a hit’.

The word has been used in France for more than a millennium and has similar equivalents in the Middle-Dutch language of the 12th Century (Klacken). It is thought that the word originally stemmed from a the Proto-Indo-European language of the bronze ages some six thousand years ago – when glag meant ‘to make a noise, clatter or chirp’. 

Use it like this:

Elle m’a claqué – She slapped me 
Je vais te claquer la porte au nez – I will slam this door in your face
Le parti a été claqué aux élections – The party received a blow at the elections 

Claquer can even be used to emphasise the power of an alcoholic beverage, as one of The Local’s editors recently discovered. 

Claquer can be turned into the noun, claquement. A claquement de doigts is a finger snap. 


Taper, gifler, frapper, cogner, casser – to hit/break 

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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.