French Expression of the Day: Le bras d’honneur

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French Expression of the Day: Le bras d’honneur
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French expression is definitely not as respectable as it may sound.


Why do I need to know le bras d’honneur?

Because when times are tense in France, you might hear this expression tossed around more than usual.

What does it mean?

Le bras d’honneur roughly pronounced luh brah doh-nerr – translates precisely to ‘arm of honour’ in English.

The French expression does not talk about an honourable action at all. In fact, it is a French way of showing anger or hostility through an arm gesture.

To make an ‘arm of honour’ you place one hand at the bend of the elbow of your other arm, raising that fist at the same time. It is most common in parts of the world that speak romance languages. 

It basically means 'screw you' or 'up yours' and carried roughly the same meaning as giving someone the finger.


In French, you can also use a doigt d’honneur (finger of honour) which means giving someone the finger.

It is unclear why these offensive gestures get the title of ‘honour’ in French, but they have been in use for many years.

Below the phrase is used on the front page of the Communist newspaper L'Humanité to describe president Emmanuel Macron's government giving 'the arm of honour to the people' - or basically giving a giant 'screw you' to the electorate.


Use it like this

Le manifestant a déclaré au journaliste que la réforme du président était un bras d'honneur aux Français. – The protestor told the journalist that the president's reform was a middle finger to the country.

Lorsque l'homme m'a insulté, j'ai répondu par un bras d'honneur.– When the man insulted me, I responded with an ‘f you’.



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