Can You Translate These Popular French Sayings into English?

EDUCATION

436 PLAYS

Monica Lee

6 Min Quiz

What does "Avant-garde" mean in English?

Originally "avant-garde" was a military term for ‘vanguard,’ the first guard on the front line. In French and in English, it is used especially in the arts, meaning "fashion forward."

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What does "crème de la crème" mean in English?

"Cream of the cream" is a synonym for the ultimate. It is excellence described in a sophisticated and classic style.

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What does "Une impression de déjà vu" mean in English?

"Déjà Vu" is an expression derived from the French, meaning "already seen." When it occurs, it seems to spark our memory of a place we have already been, a person we have already seen, or an act we have already done.

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What does "un certain je ne sais quoi" mean in English?

The English translation of this French phase is "A certain I don't know what." This phrase is used to describe an indefinable character, quality, or personality trait.

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What does "Nouveau riche" mean in English?

"Newly rich" is an insult. It said about a person who has money but has not developed the manners expected of wealthy people. That person is new to having money and does not know how to act appropriately.

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What is the literal translation of "Sacré bleu" in English?

The literal translation is "holy blue," which refers to the color associated with the Virgin Mary. However, this phrase is used as a general expression of shock, as in, "Oh my gosh!"

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What does "Tour de force" mean in English?

The literal translation is a "feat of strength." However, in today's English it means a masterly stroke or amazing skill. It is usually used to describe athletic prowess.

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What "Trompe l'œil" mean in English?

The literal French definition is "trick the eye." This is an art technique involving intense realism in order to create the illusion that the depicted objects are real rather than paintings.

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What does "Vis-à-vis" mean in English?

The literal translation from French is "face to face." It refers to a position facing another. However, in today's vocabulary it is used as a type of similarity or comparison, such as "in relation to."

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What does "Tête-à-tête" mean in English?

The literal translation of this French phrase is "head-to-head." Into today's English usage, it means a private meeting between two people.

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What does "Vive la différence" mean in English?

In French, it refers to a positive attitude about the difference between men and women. Literally, "Long live the difference (between male and female)."

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What does "Savoir-faire" mean in English?

The literal French definition is know-how , such as in having social grace. To further elaborate, it's the instinctive ability to know how to deal with any situation that arises.

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What does "Sang-froid" mean in English?

The literal translation of this French phrase is "cold blood." It is used to convey a coolness or indifference in a person.

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What does "RSVP" mean in English?

RSVP is an abbreviation for "Répondez, s'il vous plaît.". The literal translation of this French phrase is "Please respond (to my message)." Today it is used mainly on invitations in order to get a response.

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What does "Raison d'être" mean in English?

The literal translation of this French phrase is "reason for being." In other words, it's the thing that is central to our existence, such as family, art, financial success, etc.

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What is the literal translation of "Cinéma vérité" in English?

The literal translation of this French phrase is "Cinema truth." In other words, a form of film characterized by realistic, typically documentary motion pictures, that avoid artificiality and artistic effect.

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What does "Quelle horreur" mean in English?

In English, this phrase means, "What a horrible thing." This is frequently said sarcastically when the "horror" is trivial, such as in a broken fingernail, or getting a sandwich with lettuce on it when you didn't want lettuce.

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What "Pièce de résistance" mean in English?

The literal translation of the French phrase, "pièce de résistance," is "the best part." It is used in French to express the best feature of something, especially of a meal. However, in the English language, it is frequently used as something that cannot be resisted.

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What does "Nom de guerre" mean in English?

The literal translation of the French phrase, "nom de guerre," is "war name." This is a name assumed by individuals in a military group or in espionage to conceal their true identity.

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What does "Noblesse oblige" mean in English?

The translation of the French phrase, "noblesse oblige," is "noble rank entails responsibility." It mean there is a moral and management responsibility that comes with power.

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What does "Mardi Gras" mean in English?

The literal translation of the French phrase, "Mardi Gras," is "Fat Tuesday." This is the last day of Carnival and the day before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday. It is a celebratory day.

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What does "N'est-ce pas?" mean in English?

The literal translation of the French phrase, "N'est-ce pas?" is "Is it not so?" This is usually heard at the end of a phrase like, It is a beautiful day, N'est-ce pas (nez pah)?

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What does "Laissez-faire" mean in English?

"Laissez-faire" is usually used in reference to governing principles, specifically ones in which the government does not interfere with the rights of individuals. Literally, it is "let (people) do (as they think best)." A similar phrase in English is "Let it be."

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What does "Fait accompli" mean in English?

The literal translation into English of this French phrase is "a fact realized or accomplished." Such as an action is completed before those affected by it are in a position to question or reverse it. In English it's similar to "a done deal."

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What is the literal translation of "Esprit de corps" in English?

Literally, "spirit of the corps" refers to the common spirit among the members of a group, especially a military unit, which inspires enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group. In English, it can refer to the moral of the troops.

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What does "Film noir" mean in English?

The literal translation into English of this French phrase is "dark film." Film noir is a bleak cinematographic style. It usually has a dark story line and is visually dark and foreboding.

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What does "Faux pas" mean in English?

A "Faux pas" is a social blunder, causing embarrassment or marring of a reputation. The literal translation into English of this French phrase is "false step."

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What is the literal translation of "Femme fatale" in English?

A "Femme fatale" is an attractive and seductive woman, especially one who will ultimately bring disaster to the man who becomes involved with her. Another way to describe this person in English is "trouble."

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What does "Haute couture" mean in English?

Haute couture means "High sewing." It is a term describing expensive, trend-setting, high-fashion clothes. Haute couture is also the collective name for the leading dressmakers and designers.

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What "Double entendre" mean in English?

A "Double entendre" is word or phrase that has a double meaning - one of the meanings is often vulgar or risque in nature. It can also mean ambiguity or innuendo.

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What does "Coup de grâce" mean in English?

The literal translation into English of this French phrase is a "blow of mercy" or "stroke of grace." Originally, it was a blow by which one who is condemned or mortally wounded is '"put out of his misery." However, today we use it as a finishing stroke, one that settles or puts an end to something, such as an argument.

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What does "Coup d'état" mean in English?

A "Coup d'état" is an abrupt overthrow of a government through unconstitutional means, possibly by force, or peaceful occupation. In English, it is generally referred to as a coup.

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What does "Enfant terrible" mean in English?

The literal translation into English of this French phrase is a "terrible child." It is sometimes used to describe unruly children, but more commonly, it is used to describe adult behavior. For example, in English, you might call an adult a "big baby."

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What is the literal translation of "De rigueur" in English?

The literal translation into English of this French phrase is a "In strictness." It is something obligatory, expected, required by etiquette or current fashion

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What does "Cause célèbre" mean in English?

The literal translation of "Cause célèbre" into English is a "famous case." Full disclosure: this is an English invention rarely used in France. However. most people think of it as a French phrase. It refers to an issue arousing widespread controversy or debate.

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Image: Sam Edwards/ OJO Images/gettyimages

About This Quiz

It IS a small world after all. The reason may be due to many phrases and terms that have entered the English language over the centuries from France, Spain, Germany, and many other countries. For example, there are quite a few French words commonly used today in both the French and English languages that are used interchangeably. So much so, that one might say French phrases have entered every aspect of our life from movies, (film noir, cinéma vérité) to fashion, (avant-garde and haute couture) to relationships (femme fatale and ménage à trois). But most especially, our cuisine (bon appétit, soup du jour, and crème brûlée.)

However, if you think by answering this quiz there may occur a faux pas (false step), not to worry, sans faire rien (it doesn't matter) you'll relish the Joie de vivre (a feeling of exuberance) when you tell others of your high score. They will think you have a special Je ne sais quoi (a positive, indescribable characteristic or literally, 'I know not what.') But don't take our word for it. Grab a café au lait and a croissant and find out how accurately you grasp the French language. Start the quiz now.

Merci beaucoup.


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