For members


French Word of the Day: Émasculé

You don’t want to use this word carelessly in French.

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

Why do I need to know émasculé?

Because its sounds very similar to the English word ’emasculated’, but its meaning can be quite different.

What does it mean?

Émasculé roughly pronounced eh-mass-cue-lay – may look a lot like the English term “to emasculate” – depriving a man of his masculine role or identity. While the word shares the same root in both languages, the French version is a bit more intense, so beware when using it in casual conversations.

In French, émasculé means to castrate or sterilise – it can mean both a surgical castration or an accident or attack that caused a man to lose his testicles. 

It can also mean to render something less powerful, and in this sense it might even be used to discuss a law or political decree being watered-down or becoming weaker in some way. 

As for the figurative side of the word, while the French can also use ‘émasculé’ to refer to being rendered less manly, you would be more likely to hear the term “castré” used to convey this idea.

In fact, in France, a woman who in English might be called a “ball-buster” or as “domineering” was historically referred to as a “femme castratrice” (a woman castrator), which, unsurprisingly, would have been considered an insult.

Use it like this

Les journaux français ont dit que l’homme avait été émasculé lors d’une manifestation – French headlines said the man lost a testicle during a protest.

Après que le projet de loi soit passé au sénat, il a été émasculé. Il a à peine la même valeur que dans sa version originale. – After the bill passed through the senate, it was watered down. It hardly carries the same significance as it did in its original version.

Member comments

  1. FYI — ‘Après que’ takes the indicative — NOT the subjunctive as shown above

    [‘avant que’ uses the subjunctive]

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

He's the legendary Englishman who is surprisingly relevant to French political discourse.

French Expression of the Day: Robin des bois

Why do I need to know Robin des bois?

Because you might be wondering why the French reference this English outlaw during protest movements 

What does it mean?

Robin des bois roughly pronounced roe-bahn day bwah – is the French version of “Robin Hood” – the legendary outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Robin Hood is part of English folklore, with the first references to him occurring sometime during the 13th or 14th century. He did not become Robin des bois for some time – as the legend did not spread to the majority of French people until at least the 18th or 19th century. 

Robin des bois most likely made his big entrance on the French stage in the 19th century when the novel Ivanhoe (1819), which tells tales of medieval England, was translated into French. 

The fabled outlaw was welcomed by the French, particularly romantic writers and thinkers of the time who saw him as a symbol of the fight against the aristocracy. 

But the French had their own versions of Robin Hood before the English legend made its way to l’Hexagone – like the “Louis Mandrin” who supposedly rebelled against corrupt tax collectors during the Ancien Regime. 

Over the years, the French – particularly those on the political left – have evoked “Robin des bois” during strikes and protests, and it’s relatively common to see protest movements or direct action groups name themselves after Robin Hood.

The English outlaw also had his own French television series between 1963 and 1966 – though this time he was called “Thierry La Fronde” and he lived in France during the Hundred Years’ War.

Use it like this

Nous devons nous attaquer aux actions de Robin des Bois afin d’aider la classe ouvrière à payer leurs factures d’énergie, a déclaré le syndicat dans un communiqué de presse. – We must take action like Robin Hood to help the working class pay for their energy bills, the union said in a flyer. 

Le restaurateur était un véritable Robin des Bois – il avait tendance à surfacturer les tables des riches et à sous-facturer celles de la classe populaire. – The restaurant owner was a real Robin Hood – he had a tendency of overcharging tables of rich people and under-charging those of poor folks.