For members


French expression of the day: Faire la tournée des grands-ducs

Do you party like a grand-duke?

French expression of the day: Faire la tournée des grands-ducs
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know faire la tournée des grands-ducs?

Because there are never enough ways to say you’ve partied hard and expensively.

What does it mean?

It literally means ‘[To do a] tour of the Grand Dukes’, and it means that you partied like it was 1999, 2000 and 2001 all rolled into one. 

Or, more accurately, like it was 1899 … After all, it refers to lavish parties thrown by wealthy members of the Russian nobility on their regular stays in Paris in the 19th century.

They liked to spend money travelling and partying in the great European capitals, especially in the City of Light, a popular destination for aristocrats at that time.

They went from cabaret to cabaret, bars, restaurants and stately pleasure domes, spending huge amounts of money. 

Think ‘having a night on the town’, or ‘painting the town red’ and you get the general idea.

Use it like this

Elle fait la tournée des grands ducs – she is having a night on the town

Notre tournée des grands ducs commence ce soir chez Emma à 20 heures – our big night out starts at Emma’s at 8pm

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Noir de monde

This is a useful expression for describing busy tourist sites, political meetings and rock concerts.

French Expression of the Day: Noir de monde

Why do I need to know noir de monde? 

Because this expression can be used in a wide range of contexts – particularly as the weather gets warmer. 

What does it mean? 

Noir de monde, pronounced nwah duh mond, literally translates as black of the world. 

But it is generally used to describe somewhere as being busy or crowded. 

The origins of this phrase are disputed. But logically, it refers to the fact that when a mass of people are crammed into one spot, very little light passes through. You cannot necessarily see what is behind the crowd, so your vision is essentially blacked out – think getting stuck in a mosh pit or the Paris Metro. 

Noir de monde is sometimes written noire de monde – the latter phrase being used to describe feminine-gendered places. 

Le quai est noir de monde – The platform is crazy busy 

On va se voir dans la gare noire de monde? – Will we see each other in this jam-packed station? 

Le meeting politique était noir de monde ce weekend – The political rally this weekend was absolutely rammed 


There are many adjectives to describe somewhere as busy in French including:

Blindé – crowded

Bondé – packed 

Surpeuplé – overcrowded/overpopulated 

Fréquenté – busy (much frequented)

Encombré – overcrowded/stuffy

Plein – full 

Rempli de monde – full of people

Dense – dense

Saturé – saturated 

There are also many French ways of talking about a crowd. 

La foule – the crowd

Le public – the public audience

L’attroupement – the crowd

La marée humaine – the human tide

L’assemblée – the assembly of people (although this is also used as shorthand to talk about France’s Assemblée nationale