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French Word of the Day: Benjamin

If your name is Benjamin be prepared for some confusion over whether you are also 'a benjamin'.

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

Why do I need to know the word Benjamin? 

Because not all Benjamins are are actually Benjamins. It is best to avoid any Benjamin-related confusion. 

What does it mean? 

Benjamin (pronounced ‘bon-ja-man’) is a word used to designate the youngest person in a group, or the youngest member of a set of siblings. 

French people started using the word for this purpose in the 18th century but its origins go back further than that. 

In the Bible, the Book of Genesis tells us that Benjamin is the youngest son of Jacob – a man who had 13 children by four different wives. This is where the French inspiration for Benjamin comes from. 

This is used for women and girls as well – if the youngest person in the group is a female, you can use Benjamine instead. 

Use it like this:

Le nouveau benjamin de l’Assemblée Nationale ne s’attendait pas à être élu – The new youngest member of the National Assembly did not expect to be elected. 

Sandrine est notre benjamine – Sandrine is our youngest child

Je ne suis pas le benjamin – I am not the youngest one 


There are several nouns you can use to describe someone as a youngster: 

Le petiot / la petiote

Le gamin / la gamine

Le bambin / la bambine 

Le marmot (mostly applies to boys)

Le mioche 

READ ALSO English boys’ names that mean something very different in French 

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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.