For members


French Word of the Day: Rafale

From complaining about the weather to discussing military manoeuvres, this word has all sorts of handy applications.

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

Why do I need to know rafale?

Because this word might blow you away. 

What does it mean? 

Rafale, pronounced raff-ahl, has multiple meanings but is most commonly used to talk about a sudden and powerful gust of wind. 

So if there is a storm, it’s common to hear French media use phrases like this:

Météo France a relevé des rafales jusqu’à 150km/h – Météo France recorded gusts of wind up to 150km/h 

De fortes rafales pourraient toutefois encore souffler – Strong gusts could still blow 

Les fortes rafales de vent couplées aux marées hautes en cours font craindre des inondations – Strong winds coupled with high tides raise fears of flooding

The other main usage of rafale comes from the battlefield, where the word is used to describe a burst of machine gun or artillery fire. 

In this sense, you could use it like this: 

Deux hommes sont morts sous la rafale – Two men died under a hail of bullets

Son arme est en mode rafale – His gun is in automatic/burst mode 

The idea of a rapid burst can also be applied to speech:

Je vais poser mes questions en rafale – I am going to ask my questions in quick succession

The French arms manufacturer, Dassault, sells a warplane known as the Dassault Rafale, which is sold to airforces around the world. The French government is a part-owner in the company.


For talking about the windy weather, there is a wide range of vocabulary at your disposal:

Vent/venteux – Wind/windy 

Coup de vent – Gust of wind

Tempête/orage – Storm 

Orageux/houleux/tumultueux – Stormy 

When it comes to the battlefield usage, you could also use the following:

Mitrailler – To strafe (with bullets)

Mitrailleuse – Machine gun 

Pluie de balles/déluge de balles – A hail of bullets 

Member comments

  1. Also commonly used to indicate burst or continuous shooting mode on smartphones when you want to take multiple photos very quickly so you can choose best photo.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener