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French Idioms





To know a language you have to know its idioms, and French is no exception. All forms of the language, from the highly colloquial to the utterly erudite use idioms. Browse below to find the idiom you need, or just explore the many ways you can express yourself in French.

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V


bagage intellectuel
fund of knowledge (lit.: knowledge baggage; n.b.: can be used with other words, e.g.: littéraire)

baisser les bras
give up; throw in the towel (lit.: lower the arms)

bas de gamme
low-end, low quality

bâtir des châteaux en Espagne
build castles in the air (lit.: to build castles in Spain)

bâton de maréchal
the highest level one can rise to; one’s limit (lit.: one’s field marshal’s baton)

battre comme plâtre
beat the living daylights out of someone (lit.: beat someone flat)

battre froid à qqn
give someone the cold shoulder (lit.: beat cold to someone)

bec et ongle
tooth and nail

bec fin
gourmet

bel et bien
well and truly; definitively; completely; altogether (lit.: beautiful and good)

beuârk
yuck

bien conduire sa barque
handle oneself well; do all right (lit.: drive one’s boat well)

bien en chair 
well padded; plump (lit.: good in flesh)

bien mener sa barque
handle oneself well; do all right (lit.: manage one’s boat well)

bien roulée
well endowed, stacked

blague
joke

boire comme un trou
drink like a fish

boire comme une éponge
drink like a fish

boire sec
be a heavy drinker

bomber le torse
swagger; puff out one’s chest

bomber le torse
swagger; throw out one’s chest; strut

bouche bée
agape, stunned

bouche cousue
not a word; mum’s the word

bourrer le crâne
brainwash; stuff someone’s head with ideas; cram

bourrer le mou
take somebody in; have somebody on

branler dans le manche
be shaky; totter

bras dessus, bras dessous
arm in arm

bras droit
right-hand man

brasser les affaires
wheel and deal

briller par son absence
be conspicuous by one’s absence

brouiller les cartes
cloud an issue

broyer du noir
be down in the dumps; have the blues

brûler (d’envie) de
be eager to; be spoiling for

brûler les étapes
go without stopping; go faster than expected

brûler une étape
skip a stage; skip a step

brûler une feu rouge
run a red light


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