For members


French Word of the Day: Coqueluche

Coqueluche is a very bad thing to have - but an excellent thing to be.

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

Why do I need to know the word coqueluche?

Because this word has two radically different meanings and it is important not to get confused. 

What does it mean? 

The first translation of coqueluche, pronounced “cock-uh-loosh”, is “whooping cough”. 

This is a highly contagious bacterial disease, also sometimes referred to in English as “pertussis” or the “100-day cough”. 

Symptoms can include fits of coughing that can be so bad that they lead to vomiting and broken ribs. The sharp intake of breath can resemble a high-pitched whooping noise. Some believe that this sounds a bit like the crow of a rooster – or coq in French – hinting at the word’s etymology. 

Fortunately, in many countries around the world, children are vaccinated against whooping cough at a young age so it’s a lot less prevalent these days than it once was. 

The other translation of coqueluche is radically different – it can mean “darling” or “favourite”. It is often used to talk about public personalities but can also be used in a scholarly setting. 

Use it like this 

When talking about the disease, you could use the following phrases: 

Le nombre de cas a très fortement baissé depuis l’introduction du vaccin contre la coqueluche – The number of cases has fallen a lot since the introduction of the vaccine against whooping cough 

La coqueluche est très contagieuse – Whooping cough is very contagious

When using coqueluche in the other sense of the word, you could say the following: 

La princesse Diana fut la coqueluche des médias – Princess Diana was the darling of the media 

Avec mon accent charmant, je suis la coqueluche de la class – With my charming accent, I am the class favourite 

Je me révolte contre l’idée qu’il est la coqueluche de toutes les dames – I disagree with the idea that he is the favourite of all the women 


There are some alternative ways to describe someone as “the favourite”: le préféré, le favori, le privilégie

Other expressions include:

Le chouchou  – The teacher’s pet

Le lèche-cul – The arse licker 

L’idole – The idol 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

A brand new coinage in the French language that reflects the changing times.

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

Why do I need to know la Première ministre?

Because France has one now.

What does it mean?

La Première ministre – usually pronounced lah prem-ee-air mean-east-ruh– translates as “the prime minister,” but this spelling is different from what you might be used to seeing.

This title is feminised, indicating that the prime minister in question is a woman. Under former PMs such as Jean Castex, the masculine title Le Premier ministre was used.

Élisabeth Borne made headlines on May 16th not only because she was appointed as France’s second female prime minister, but also because she will be the first to use the feminisation of the work title: Madame la Première ministre. The female prime minister who held the position before her, Edith Cresson, used the masculine version of the title.

Feminising work titles has been controversial in France, and most titles like “le Premier ministre” have been automatically put in masculine form.

But in 2019, France’s infamous Academie Francaise, which polices the French language and typically resists any sweeping changes to it, changed their stance and said there was “no obstacle in principle” to the wholesale feminisation of job titles. 

Use it like this

Le Président Emmanuel Macron a fait une annonce importante. Élisabeth Borne est la Première ministre. – President Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement: Élisabeth Borne is the prime minister.

“Madame la Première ministre, qui avez-vous choisi pour diriger votre nouveau gouvernement ?” a demandé le journaliste. – “Madame Prime Minister, who have you chosen to lead your new government?” asked the journalist.