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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


l’affaire est dans le sac
it’s in the bag (lit.: the matter is in the sack)

l’échapper belle
have a close call; make a narrow escape

l’embarras du choix
too much to choose from

l’emporter sur
get the better of; win out over

l’esprit de l’escalier
belated wit

l’été de la Saint-Martin
Indian summer

la barbe
damn; blast (lit.: the beard; n.b.: introjection but not vulgar)

la belle affaire
big deal; so what (lit.: the nice matter)

la belle avance
a lot of good that will do (lit.: the nice advance; n.b.: ironic)

la belle saison
warm weather; warm months

la bête noire
a pet peeve (lit.: the black creature)

la court échelle
a boost; a hand up; a leg up

la fable de la ville
a laughingstock

la fable du quartier
a laughingstock

la fin de fins
at the end; in the end; ultimately

la moutarde lui monte au nez 
he/she is getting angry

la plupart de(s)
most, most of, the majority of

laisse pisser
forget it; let it go (lit.: let it piss)

laisser de côté
set aside; put aside; leave

lasser la bride sur le cou
give someone a free hand; leave someone a free hand; give someone free reign

le bruit court
rumor has it

le cas échéant
if need be

le champ est libre
the coast is clear

le chemin saint Jacques
the Milky Way (from the legend that sas the remains of saint James were discovered at Compostella in Galicia, Spain, by bishop Theodomir, who

le coup de foudre
love at first sight

le coup de l’étrier
one for the road

le dessous des cartes
what goes on behind the scenes

le dessous des carts
the real story

le dessus du panier
the cream of the crop; the pick of the litter

le droit chemin
the straight and narrow

le fin fond de
the depths of

le fin mot de l’histoire
the real point to the story

le plus clair de
the greater part of (lit.: the clearer of)

le pour et le contre
the pros and the cons

lèche-vitrines
window-shopping (lit.: licking windows)

les carottes sont cuites
your goose is cooked; you’re (we’re) done for (lit.: the carrots are cooked)

les coins et recoins
the ins and outs

les deux font la paire
they are two of a kind

les doigts dans le nez
easily

les faux frais
incidentals

les mains en jumelles sur ses yeux
hands making binoculars over his eyes

lever le nez 
raise one’s head

louche
fishy, shifty

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