French Word of the Day: Ratisser

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

This French word might come up somewhat frequently during the autumn.


Why do I need to know ratisser?

Because you might see this word used in plenty of scenarios: when taking care of your garden, reading about a police investigation, or even playing poker.

What does it mean?

Ratisser – roughly pronounced rah-tee-say – directly translates as ‘to rake’. As one would expect, you will probably hear this word a decent amount during the autumn months when the leaves are falling.

But there are several other situations where you might hear someone use ratisser as well.


In the formal sense, you might see it when police or investigators need to do ‘a sweep’ or ‘comb through’ of an area. This would be called a ratissage.

It also has two different colloquial meanings. While in English we might say someone ‘rakes in a lot of money’ in the sense that they are a high earner, the French term has to do with theft.

You might use ratisser to say someone’s wallet was pickpocketed (eg. On lui a ratissé son portefeuille). 

The other colloquial meaning is also financial - it means to ruin someone or take all of their money. You would most likely hear this during a game of poker, or when discussing a financial crime. 

A synonym for this version of the word in French would be ruiner

Use it like this

Il va ratisser la cour, qui est couverte de feuilles. – He is going to rake the yard, it is covered with leaves.

L'escroc a ratissé des personnes pauvres dans toute la France. – The scammer financially ruined poor people across France.


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