8 favourite French words of the Day

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8 favourite French words of the Day

More words and phrases from the fabulous French language – including a useful argument phrase, the poetic term for ugly crying, one phrase that is a warning of an impending temper tantrum, and a handy guide to online terms...


Every weekday The Local publishes a French word or phrase of the day. We try to focus on colloquialisms, slang, sayings (and a bit of swearing) – you know, the type of French you won’t learn in the classroom, but will hear all the time in the street.

This daily habit means we have a very extensive back catalogue – find it here – and we’ve picked out eight of our recent favourites.

N’importe quoi

If you are ever involved in an argument in France, and the chances are you will be, you are going to need this French expression that means one of ‘no matter what’, ‘anything’, ‘whatever’, ‘nonsense’, ‘rubbish’ – or even ‘bullshit!’.

We get to the bottom of how that all works, here.

Éclater en sanglots 

Honestly, the French language is routinely much more poetic than English, as its version of ugly crying beautifully and … well, poetically … demonstrates.


Éclater en sanglots - roughly pronounced ay-clah-tay ahn san-glow - means to burst into tears (or sobs). Éclater is the verb to burst, while sanglot is a wonderful term for the ‘spasm causing contractions of the diaphragm and accompanied by tears’.

Try not to blub as you read more, here.


It’s a bit old-fashioned now, but this polite exclamation of frustration is always fun… And no, it's not 'zut alors' despite what your school textbooks told you.

Read more, here.

En lice

This phrase, dating back some 800 years or so, is a good one to know for the end of the French rugby or football seasons, and the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

The expression actually refers to being part of a competition or tournament. In English, we might say ‘in the running’ or ‘in the fray’. 

Get up to speed with the term here.

Péter un câble

You may want to make like Homer Simpson and back away carefully into a hedge if you hear someone say “je vais péter un câble”. Because it means they’re very close to losing their temper in a dramatic and not entirely constructive manner…

We explain, here.

Raccrocher au nez

If you feel the urge to hang up on the 15th cold caller to offer you protection juridique, and miss the days when you could slam the phone back down on its cradle, rather than simply pressing a button, this is the phrase for you.

Wait… don’t hang up… find out more, here.

L’effet waouh

Don’t be fooled by the odd spelling – l’effet waouh is no false friend: it really does mean the ‘wow factor’. Similar to the English-language version, in French it can basically be used for anything that elicits a sense of surprise, shock or curiosity – from red carpet outfit to the age of the French Prime Minister…

Learn about the French version of wow factor, here.


Brûler les étapes

Not something you usually want to do – even if you’re in a rush – “burning the steps” means to cut corners, as we explain (in full) here.

One final thing – as we’re nearly a quarter-of-a-century into the 21st century, it’s probably time to catch up on some key French online terms.

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in French


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