French Word of the Day: Occidentaux

This has an ancient word root but an all-too-modern application.

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

Why do I need to know Occidentaux?

Because it features regularly in newspapers and news programmes at the moment.

What does it mean?

Occidentaux – pronounced ock-si-dont-oh –  is the masculine plural form of the adjective occidental, meaning western.

It’s used in a lot of contexts to mean the western part of something, but it also has a political context.

So in discussions about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you might hear phrases such as pays occidentaux, meaning western countries; gouvernements occidentaux – western governments; or états occidentaux – western states. 

It’s frequently used on its own too, especially in headlines such as ‘Le Président Zelensky accuse les Occidentaux . . .’ – President Zelensky accuses the west.

It is sometimes used to describe those nations that are signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty – particularly at the moment – in fact, that’s the Larousse Dictionary definition of the word.

It derives from the Latin occidens, (sunset, West), in contrast to the Orient (oriens, rise, East). While ‘the orient’ exists in English it’s pretty archaic, whereas in France Moyen orient means the Middle East.

Use it like this

Pays occidentaux  – western countries

La partie occidentale du pays est couverte de forêts – The western part of the country is covered by forests.


L’ouest – the west

L’est – the east

These are the more straightforward phrases for east and west but they tend to be used for either compass points or specific regional descriptions eg la sud-ouest de la france

They’re not used for wider or geopolitical descriptions, so you won’t hear politicians talking about La réponse de Moucou aux ouest – Moscow’s response to the west.

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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