French Expression of the Day: Monsieur Dupont

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French Expression of the Day: Monsieur Dupont
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Curious who this mystery Frenchman might be and why people keep referencing him?


Why do I need to know Monsieur Dupont?

Because he might not be a real person.

What does it mean?

Monsieur Dupont – roughly pronounced miss-yur doo-ponn – may appear to be the name of a Frenchman, and often it will involve a very real person (for example France's rugby captain Antoine Dupont). But oftentimes, this name is used by the French press to refer to an unidentified person.

In English, you might see “John or Jane Doe” or "John Smith" while in France you could see Monsieur Dupont.  There are in fact several different ways to refer to an unidentified person - you could also see it written as “Monsieur X” or “Monsieur Durand” or even “Monsieur Tout-le-monde” (Mr Everyone). For women, of course, it would be Madame Dupont.


While not the most common surname in France, Dupont is still quite prevalent. It is often paired with the first name Jean - which was very common in the 20th century - to function similarly to “John Doe.”

When government agencies release images of specimen documents like driver's licences or ID cards, they will often use the name Dupont for the dummy card.


Sometimes, when describing an average citizen, the French will use the word “Lambda” as an adjective. So you could say a “conducteur lambda” (an average driver) for example.

And the most common surname in France? That's Martin, according to national statistics body Insee.

Use it like this

C'est un homme d'affaires anonyme qui a acheté la peinture. Monsieur Dupont a payé des millions pour ça. – It was an anonymous businessman who bought the painting. John Doe paid millions for it.

Le dossier a juste répertorié la victime sous le nom de Monsieur X parce que la police ne pouvait pas déterminer son identité. – The case just listed the victim as John Doe because the police could not figure out his identity.

Le citoyen lambda n'a ni le temps ni l'argent pour voyager plusieurs semaines par an. – The average person does not have time or money to travel several weeks out of the year.


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iainnoble49 2023/01/20 16:28
Perhaps related to Adam Ant's claim that Young Parisians are all called 'DuBois' (and ride on the metro and all speak French not like you and me).
msclayton 2023/01/20 12:14
Personally I have never heard of John Doe, but possibly Joe Bloggs😉

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