For members


French Word of the Day: Souche

It's often been used in a scientific context during the pandemic, but this word has several other uses.

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

Why do I need to know souche? 

Because when scientists discover a new one, we could all be in trouble. 

What does it mean? 

A souche, pronounced “soosh”, is the French word commonly used to describe a biological strain.

It can be used interchangeably with variante, pronounced “vah-ree-ont”.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is common to hear scientists referring to a souche du virus or a souche virale  to mean “strain of the virus” or “viral strain”. 

Les scientifiques ont découvert une nouvelle souche du virus – Scientists have discovered a new strain of the virus.

Il faut du temps pour identifier une nouvelle souche virale – It takes time to discover a new viral strain

Le variant Omicron est une nouvelle souche du SARS-CoV-2 capable de contourner l’immunité – The Omicron variant is a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 capable to evading immunity

Other uses 

Souche can also be applied in a number of other contexts. 

It can be used to talk about where you are from like so:

Je suis britannique de souche – I am British by origin

Emily est une américaine de souche – Emily is from America originally 

It also has other scientific and botanical uses. 

Une cellule souche – a stem cell

Une souche d’arbre – a tree stump 

To this end, the expression, dormir comme une souche means “to sleep like a log” 

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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.