For members


French Expression of the Day: Manger un bout

The opposite of the classical French dining experience.

French Expression of the Day: Manger un bout
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know manger un bout ?

Because you probably feel like doing this most evenings before dinner time.

What does it mean?

Manger un bout – pronounced mahn-jay uhn boo – translates precisely to ‘to eat a piece’ or ‘to eat a fragment’, but it really meals eating something that is not quite a full meal – the English equivalent would be ‘to grab a bite’ or ‘to get something to eat’.

The expression implies eating something quick and light, like a snack, instead of a meal. However, it should not be confused with ‘goûter’ which is the dedicated snack hour (usually filled with chocolate and cookies) in the mid-to-late afternoon.

READ ALSO How to snack (or not) like a French person

It is a pretty simple, yet common, expression in French, so you will likely hear it often. If someone offers you to ‘grab a bite’ with them, then you probably do not have to anticipate a long, involved sit-down meal. Instead, you might get a kebab, a sandwich or some easy street food. 

Some think that the phrase was popularised by police in the 18th and 19th centuries. The criminal would supposedly be deprived of food until he agreed to confess or betray his accomplices, but when he confessed he was allowed a ‘bite to eat.’

You might also hear another version of this expression: “manger un morceau” (to eat a piece) which carries the same meaning. 

Use it like this

Je vais juste manger un bout avant de vous rejoindre. – I am just going to eat a bite of food before joining you guys.

Je n’ai pas eu le temps de préparer un repas complet, alors j’ai juste mangé un bout et je suis partie rapidement de chez moi pour arriver à l’heure. – I did not have the time to make a full meal, so I just grabbed something quick and left my house quickly to be on time.

Member comments

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


French Expression of the Day: À poil

Some people prefer to sleep like this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: À poil

Why do I need to know à poil ?

Because if someone invites you to come to a beach like this and you don’t know the meaning of this expression, then you might be in for a bit of a surprise.

What does it mean?

À poil – roughly pronounced ah pwahl – is an expression that makes use of the French word for an animal’s fur or its coat. A synonym might be fourrure. However, the expression as it has come to be used does not have to do with animals’ coats – it actually means to be naked. 

How a phrase referring to animal’s fur came to signify nakedness goes all the way back to the 17th century and the world of horseback-riding. At the time, one could either ride a horse with a saddle or cover (blanket), or you could ride bareback. The phrase for doing so was monter l’animal à cru (“à cru” meaning ‘bare’ or ‘raw’) which became monter un cheval à poil – to ride the horse with only its fur.

In this case, the horse was seen as naked (lacking its saddle or blanket), and over time the idea of the naked horse transferred over to naked people. 

The phrase is slightly crude – you wouldn’t use it to describe nude artworks – but not offensive, it’s roughly similar to describing someone as “butt naked” or “bollock naked” in English. The more polite way to say this might be “tout nu” (totally naked).

If you are looking for another way to say ‘birthday suit’ in French you could use “en costume d’Adam” (in Adam’s suit – a Biblical reference to the naked inhabitants of the Garden of Eden). 

Use it like this

Je me suis mise pas mal à poil dernièrement, mais ce n’est pas un délire exhibo et, dans la vie, c’est plus compliqué – I’ve been getting naked quite a bit lately, but it’s not an exhibitionist thing, life is more complicated than that. – From an interview about nude scenes with the French actress Virgine Efira.

Je préfère dormir à poil en été. Il fait vraiment trop chaud ! – I prefer sleeping totally naked in the summer. It is really too hot!