Popular French idiomatic expressions


Popular French expressions

There are several aspects to learning a language, the first one is learning the proper base with the knowledge of language rules. The second is learning the context in which a language develops, meaning, the cultural notions proper to the place where it is spoken and that give way the origin of idiomatic expressions or slang. The latter is usually learned during interactions with language natives, through cultural events, or even by watching television or movies.  In today’s article we will share with you some French idiomatic expressions and their meaning so that next time you talk with a native, you can integrate it to your conversation.

Être un ours mal léché

If you were to translate this phrase literally, it would mean a badly licked bear, an odd expression indeed. When someone is being called un ours mal léché, it usually describes a person that is considered rude or with poor manners or education.

The origin of this phrase goes back to the bear’s origins, considered a solitary animal, mama bears lick their bears when they are born to clean them and then progressively guides them during the first stages of their life. In theory, a badly licked bear was a bear that was not guided properly by their mother; hence, poorly educated.

L’habit ne fait pas le moine

Translated to the clothes do not make a monk is like the English expression “don’t judge a book by its cover”, meaning you cannot tell a person’s character or personality simply by the way they look.

    Filer à l'anglaise

    This expression is an interesting one as it means “to run away like the English”, and yet, the English use the expression “to take the French leave”. They both refer to when someone leaves without saying goodbye, without being noticed.

    Il y a anguille sous roche 

    Meaning there is an eel under a rock. This phrase means that there is something suspicious going on, and it originates from the eel’s predatory behaviour. Eels tend to hide behind rocks and crevices to snatch their unsuspecting prey. This is why, when you see an eel hiding, it means that it is planning something and that generates suspicion.

    Peigner la giraffe 

    Have you ever combed a giraffe? This expression refers to when someone is not doing something useful or effective or is simply pretending to do something, when in reality they are not doing nothing productive.

    There are many debated origins to this expression, one of them being that brushing a giraffe is a long and tiring job and the other dating back to the 1800s, when a giraffe was offered to Charles X from an Egyptian monarch. The story says that this giraffe had 4 servants looking after it, one who’s job was to brush it. Was it productive?

    Did you know any of these expressions before? Let us know in our Social Media post!

    There are many popular French idiomatic expressions, if you wish to know more of them, check out our Instagram page!

    Master the complexity of the French language in our upcoming courses! Hurry and register today!

    Share It Share It