French Expression of the Day: Nid-de-poule

The Local France
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French Expression of the Day: Nid-de-poule
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French expression is one all motorists should be aware of.


Why do I need to know nid-de-poule?

Because you might encounter one of these when driving around France - and it's not what it sounds like.

What does it mean?

Nid-de-poule - roughly pronounced knee duh pool - translates precisely as ‘hen's nest' or 'chicken's nest'.

In reality, it is not related to farming. It is the French word for ‘pothole’ - those irritating holes that appear in roads or pavements that are not in good repair - and people have been using it for this purpose since at least the mid-19th century.


At the time, the asphalt roads and motorways we are familiar with today did not exist. Roads were makeshift, often poorly maintained, routes which people usually drove horse-drawn carriages over. 

As such, it was not uncommon for potholes to form. The working theory is that wild birds came and sat down in the holes - though probably to take dust baths and not to lay eggs. 

Use it like this

J'ai crevé après avoir roulé sur un nid-de-poule. - I got a flat tyre after running over a pothole.

Soyez prudent sur les vieilles routes de campagne, il y a beaucoup de nids-de-poule. - Be careful on the old country roads, there are a lot of potholes.


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