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French Word of the Day: Cheh

The Local France
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French Word of the Day: Cheh
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French word may be 'playground speak', but it's used by plenty of adults who want to be childish for a moment.

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Why do I need to know cheh?

Because you might have seen young people posting this phrase on social media after the French elections. And because gloating is always fun, regardless of the occasion. 

What does it mean?

Cheh - it's usually pronounced 'chay' but some people pronounce it like 'chess' but without the 's' - is a colloquial French word used predominantly by young people and children.

It is the type of word you might hear on the playground (there may be tears involved). For example, two children are playing and one beats the other. The winner might scream cheh! Which is the rough equivalent of ‘in your face’ or 'take that' or ‘you deserved that’.

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Usually, it is used in a mocking way to respond when something funny or unpleasant has happened to another person. Obviously it's not nice to mock another person's failures and little kids will likely be told off for using it, but the word itself is not offensive or explicit. 

As for its origins, the informal response is relatively new in the French lexicon. It comes from a similar sounding Arabic word that means ‘well done, well deserved’. 

READ ALSO The French words and phrases that have Arabic origins

The word has become quite common on social media amongst young people, and it is also featured in French pop music.

Following the 2024 French legislative elections, which saw the far-right come third despite predictions of a win, many left-wing young people took to social media to jokingly post ‘cheh’.

If you are looking for a more formal way to say ‘well, you deserved that’ in French, you could say tu l’as bien cherché instead.

Use it like this

Après avoir fait tomber son frère pour grimper plus vite sur le terrain de jeu, le petit garçon a crié "cheh" ! - After tripping his brother to climb up the playground faster, the small boy screamed ‘in your face!’

L'influenceuse a posté une capture d'écran de l'échec de sa rivale, avec pour seule mention "cheh". - The influencer posted a screenshot of her rival’s failure, with only the caption ‘Well-earned’.

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