French Word of the Day: Époustouflant

Berlin wrote an iconic 1980s song about it, and French has a word for it.

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

Why do I need to know époustouflant(e)?

Because there are so many surprising things going on in the world right now, that we all need another word to be able to properly express our surprise.

What does it mean?

Époustouflant or epoustouflante if you are talking about a feminine item is pronounced eh-poo-stoo-flan (or eh-poo-stoo-flant in the feminine) and it translates directly as breathtaking.

It’s used to express surprise, shock or amazement.

And it’s slightly easier, though no less enjoyable, to say than à couper le souffle (to cut the breath).

It comes from the verb époustoufler – to astonish to the point of taking one’s breath away. It is believed the word was first coined in the 19th century.

Use it like this

J’ai séjourné dans un hôtel avec une vue époustouflante – I stayed in a hotel with a breathtaking view

Paysage époustouflant – breathtaking scenery

Un acteur époustouflant – an astonishing actor

Une nouvelle époustouflante – stunning news

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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