For members


French Word of the Day: Beigne

This word is not actually just a shortened version of the pastry.

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

Why do I need to know Beigne ?

Because if someone says they want to give you this word, you might either be very happy or in a lot of pain.

What does it mean?

Beigne – pronounced ben-yuh – is the literal translation for a “European doughnut” in French, even though the word looks similar to the other pastry, a beignet

However, the slang version of this term refers to a ‘blow that causes swelling’ – ie a hit or a punch. If you are looking for a synonym, you could also use the French word ‘coup.’

You can decipher between the pastry and the punch by checking whether the word is in masculine or feminine.

The masculine version (un beigne) is the word for a doughnut with a hole in the middle (un beignet is the round doughnut with no hole, and often a filling) whereas the feminine version (une beigne) means a hit or blow. Though, context clues ought to help you figure it out.

The words are interconnected. ‘Beigne‘ dates all the way back to the 13th century in France, and it referred to a ball of dough fried in butter. The slang term supposedly arose from the practice of punching a hole in the dough so that it would cook more evenly.

These days, une beigne can be both a physical and metaphorical ‘hit.’

An example of the latter would be when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost a vote of no-confidence from his party – some French newspapers responded by running headlines of the Big Beigne (a play on words with Big Ben) to joke about the blow the former PM received.

Be careful using this word outside of France though, as in French Canada the term has a bit of a different meaning. En Québécois, it can be taken as an insult, similar to calling someone an idiot. Additionally, the phrase in Quebec “se pogner le beigne” means ‘to do nothing’ or to ‘twiddle your thumbs.’

Use it like this

Il a reçu une beigne au visage après avoir insulté la mère de l’autre homme. – He took a punch to the face after insulting the other man’s mother.

Tu sais comment faire des beignes ? On pourrait essayer d’en faire ensemble le week-end prochain. – Do you know how to make doughnuts? Would you like to make some together next weekend?

Pour échapper à un requin, il faut lui donner une beigne dans le nez. – To escape a shark, you have to give him a blow to the nose.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

You might do this while gardening or while reading the tabloids.

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

Why do I need to know découvrir le pot aux roses?

Because if you enjoy celebrity gossip, then you probably will find good use for this phrase

What does it mean?

Découvrir le pot aux roses – pronounced day-coov-rear le pot-oh rose – literally translates to ‘to discover the pot of roses.’ 

You might use this expression when finding out about some exciting gossip or maybe when discovering what your partner secretly planned for your anniversary, as this phrase in actuality is what you would say when you learn something secret or hidden. 

In English, when discussing secrets, you might say someone has ‘spilled the beans’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but the French phrase is more about the person who has found out about the hidden item or truth, not the person who told it, as it ‘spill the beans’.

The origins of this French expression are not what you might expect, historically, the phrase has little to do with the flowers.

During the Middle Ages, the verb ‘découvrir’ had the meaning of ‘to lift a lid’ and at the time the phrase ‘pot aux roses’ referred to a small box that wealthy women used to store their perfumes, as well as their makeup. They often used these boxes to keep secrets, letters, or notes that they did not want others to stumble upon.

Use it like this

Pendant l’afterwork, Sarah a raconté à tout le monde les secrets les plus fous sur la vie privée du patron. Je ne comprends pas comment elle a réussi à découvrir le pot aux roses. – During the work happy hour, Sarah told us all about the wildest secrets of our boss’ personal life. I don’t understand how she managed to unearth that gossip.

Il a découvert le pot aux roses lorsqu’il s’est connecté à l’ordinateur de son colocataire pour regarder simplement son mail. – He discovered the secret when he logged onto his roommate’s laptop to just check his email.