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French Word of the Day: Souche

French Word of the Day: Souche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
It's often been used in a scientific context during the pandemic, but this word has several other uses.

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

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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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