For members


French Expression of the Day: En catimini

This word has absolutely nothing to do with small cats.

French Expression of the Day: En catimini
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know en catimini? 

Because some people are sneaky.

What does it mean? 

En catimini, pronounced on cat-ee-meanie, is an adverb which means secretly or on the sly. 

There are two main theories as the the etymology of the term. 

The first is that it comes from the old Greek word katamenia (καταμήνια) which means menstrual blood – something that would typically not be discussed in public and was therefore considered to be hidden. 

The second is that it comes from chattemite, a word in the Picard regional language of northern France, which describes someone who pretends to be sweet, humble and sycophantic, in order to dupe someone. 

Use it like this

Emmanuel Macron fait la campagne en catimini – Emmanuel Macron is campaigning on the sly

Vladimir Poutine a préparé son invasion en catimini – Vladimir Putin has secretly prepared his invasion 

Ils négociaient en catimini – They negotiated secretly 

Je ne veux pas de ces ententes en catimini – I don’t want these backroom deals 


The following terms can all carry a similar meaning to en catimini

En cachette 

En coulisse 

En douce

En loucedé (this is slang)

En tapinois 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

This expression doesn't actually have much to do with lunchtime.

French Expression of the Day: Chercher midi à quatorze heures

Why do I need to know chercher midi à quatorze heures?

Because when someone makes what should take fifteen minutes into an hour-long effort, you might want an appropriate phase.

What does it mean?

Chercher midi à quatorze heures – usually pronounced share-shay-mid-ee-ah-cat-orz-ur – literally means “to look for noon at 2 pm.” When taken literally, the expression does not make much sense. However, in practice, it means “to make a simple thing overly complicated.” It is basically the French equivalent of “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”

The expression is quite old, but it is still in use…though it might be more common to find it spoken in the countryside rather than on Twitter.

It was first used as early as the 16th century – the version then was “to look for noon at eleven.” As time went on, it changed to reflect its current form in the 17th century. 

As noon is an important marker for the middle of the day, particularly as l’heure de déjeuner (lunch time), the expression makes fun of making something overly difficult. 

You’ll most likely hear this in the negative command form – as it is something you should probably avoid doing.

Use it like this

Pourquoi avoir pris la route la plus longue pour aller au supermarché ? Ne cherchez pas midi à quatorze heures. – Why take the longest route to get to the supermarket? Don’t overcomplicate things.

Tu n’as pas besoin d’essayer toutes les lettres de l’alphabet pour trouver le Wordle. C’est mieux de penser à des mots simples. Ne cherche pas midi à quatorze heures. – You don’t need to try every letter in the alphabet to get the Wordle. Just think of simple words. Don’t over complicate it.