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French Word of the Day: Poêle

The season of the poêle is approaching.

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

Why do I need to know poêle ?

Because you might be confused why your friends said they plan to heat their home using a frying pan this winter.

What does it mean?

Poêle – roughly pronounced pwahl – translates exactly to “stove” and is also often used in a shortened form of poêle à frire (frying pan).

But that’s not why people suddenly start talking about them as the temperatures fall, as a poêle is also an alternative heating method.

In English, we would call these log-burners or wood (or pellet) burning stoves. There are two different types – un poêle à bois (wood-burner) or un poêle à granulés (pellet-burner).

These can be used as an extra heater or simply as a nice focal point in the living room, but certain types of poêle can also be linked up to the main heating system or water-heating system, so have a more practical application.

Some people also use the hot surface of the poêle to boil a kettle on or to cook on, although they’re usually used as a supplement to an electric or gas stove. 

Amid France’s discussion surrounding energy shortages and the price of electricity and gas, les poêles have been more frequently referenced.

Be careful not to confuse this word with ‘poils’ which is the French word for animal fur, but is pronounced very similarly, or even à poil which is a colloquial word for being naked.

Use it like this

J’ai installé un poêle à bois dans ma maison. Le processus a pris beaucoup de temps, mais j’ai pu bénéficier de certaines aides gouvernementales. – I installed a wood-burning stove in my home. The process took a long time, but I was able to benefit from some government subsidies.

Elle a chauffé sa maison avec le poêle tout l’hiver pour éviter d’utiliser l’électricité. – She heated her home using the wood-burner all winter to avoid using electricity.

Member comments

  1. It helps that ‘la poêle’ (female) is pan, while ‘le poêle’ (male) is burner, or stove. They’re usually spoken about in the singular, so that’s how I know which is being spoken about.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Les coiffeurs

Not just the haircare professionals

French Expression of the Day: Les coiffeurs

Why do I need to know les coiffeurs ?

Because you may need this expression when watching sports, as well as when discussing your hairstyle.

What does it mean?

Les coiffeurs roughly pronounced lay qua-fur –  means “the hairdressers,” and normally this exact translation is correct – if you go to a hairdresser in France, they will be called a coiffeur.

READ ALSO Need-to-know vocab for getting a haircut

But the expression has another meaning – one specific to sport. A “match des coiffeurs” describes a game where the substitute players, or the second-stringers play instead of the stars of the team. It usually happens during a tournament when a team has already qualified for the next stage and so opts to rest their star players in games that are not must-wins. 

The phrase has a few possible origins. The first is from football lore – apparently substitutes used to comb their teammates’ hair during a competition. The second hypothesis is that it was coined by Luis Fernandez, a first-string player who was on the Paris-Saint Germain football team in the 1980s. He reportedly said that “substitutes were not likely to get their hair ruffled” because they would be staying on the bench.

The third possibility is the simple etymological origins of the verb “coiffer” – which apparently has a second meaning that involves “getting the upper hand on your rival.” 

France has many other football related terms that come in handy during the World Cup – one is “nettoyer la toile d’arraigner” (to clean up the spider’s web). 

READ ALSO French phrases for watching the World Cup

This does not just refer to doing your dusting around the apartment – in football means to score a goal, but such an impressive goal that the goalie did not have any chance of stopping it. 

And of course, the next time you are enjoying football and using the expression “les coiffeurs,” you’ll want to avoid being called a “footix.” 

READ MORE: Word of the day: Footix

While this was once the name of the mascot for the 1998 World Cup (held in France), the term now has a broader meaning to describe a person who has just jumped on the bandwagon, or someone who is not normally a football fan but has made a show of following the World Cup, for instance. 

Use it like this

Les coiffeurs de l’équipe de France ont joué contre la Tunisie hier soir et ils ont gagné. – France’s B-Team played against Tunisia last night and they won.

C’était un match de coiffeurs car les joueurs titulaires étaient trop épuisés et avaient besoin de se reposer. – It was a match of second-stringers because the starting players were too exhausted and needed to rest.