French Expression of the Day: Depuis la nuit des temps

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 9 Mar, 2023 Updated Thu 9 Mar 2023 11:13 CEST
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Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This rather poetic French phrase actually has a lot of everyday uses.


Why do I need to know depuis la nuit des temps?

Because you might want to emphasise to your French friend just how long you have been waiting in line.

What does it mean?

Depuis la nuit des temps roughly pronounced deh pwee lah noo-eet day tahm – is a French expression that translates precisely to “since the night of time”.

If you think it looks and sounds similar to the English expression, “since the dawn of time” then you would be correct. This French phrase basically means “for a very long time” or “forever”.  


You might hear it used when someone is describing a phenomenon that has been in existence for many years, or perhaps just a complaint about having to wait too long for your perpetually tardy friend. 

The French have been using their version of this expression since at least the 17th century, and experts believe that it has biblical origins, referencing the period before the creation of humanity.

Another similar colloquial French expression to signify that a long time has passed is ça fait un bail.

Use it like this

Le politicien a rejeté les affirmations de l'activiste et a déclaré que les choses étaient ainsi depuis la nuit des temps. – The politician shrugged off the activist's claims and said things have been like this since the dawn of time.

On peut dire que les conflits interpersonnels existent depuis la nuit des temps. – You could say that interpersonal conflict has existed since the dawn of time. 

J'ai l'impression de faire la queue depuis la nuit des temps.– I feel like I have been waiting in line since the dawn of time.



The Local 2023/03/09 11:13

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