Fire hydrant
Today's unrelated Photo du Jour: a fire hydrant in the hilltop town of Seguret.

A fun (and easy!) word game for you today & an invitation for UK readers, here.

fendre (fon-dr) verb
    : to split; to slit, to slash
    : to cleave

[from the Latin, "findere"]

fendre la foule = to push one's way through the crowd
se fendre = to crack
fendre l'air = "to cut through the air" (to quickly advance)
se fendre la pêche / se fendre la gueule = to laugh openly, noisily

The word of the day ("fendre") was selected at random -- after playing today's word game... read on, in the following column...).

My mom leaves in just a few days and I'd like to spend as much time with "Jules" as possible. Therefore, I'm leaving all the work to you today, via a fun (and improvised...) word game:

Here are the instructions (dictionary* not required... but helpful):

1. Randomly open a French-English dictionary.
2. Cover your eyes.
3. Let your finger drop to the page.
4. Uncover your eyes, discover the French word beneath your very fingertip...
5. Type the word into the comments box.
6. Don't forget to add a definition and any related terms, idioms, or expressions!

*Psst: Don't have a dictionary handy? Pas de problème! Answer this question: Tell us the first French word that comes to mind. List it, along with a definition, in the comments box. If you don't know the definition, just make one up!

Note: Please *do not* send words via email, but use the comments box.

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Poubelle = Trash I love the sound of that word! I heard of a restaurant in San Francisco named "La Poubelle".


L'hipopotame = hippopotamus. Say it out loud and you'll understand!


porte fenetre - french door (the British say french window)


Poubelle means trash can or dust bin - what a name for a restaurant!!


pantoufles nf slippers (doesnt it sound like slippers?)


lester VT to ballast. I like lester son estomac or se lester, meaning to stuff oneself


Un parapluie = umbrella. Say it and you'll be glad for rain!


pamplemousse - grapefruit! I'd love to know the origins of pamplemousse -- is it as far from reality as "grape fruit" is from the fruit that bears its name?


Manieres - la maniere
= manners. Apprendre les bonnes manieres. To learn good manners. (One to remember for my French class tomorrow!)

Val Van Dieren

'etre tout feu tout flamme'
'All fire, all flame'
meaning to be full of enthusiasm. I love this idiom.

Should the 'tout' before the word 'flamme' have an 'e' on the end?


un gugusse = clown, guy, twit (slang)
Try saying it - a little bit of a tongue twister


Tricher: to cheat
I confess, Je suis une tricheuse. (Is that correct?!?) My first three attempts were all cognates, and what fun is there in that?


encore que = although


moufle = (nf) mitten
bon voyage to Jules!

Judy Harris

Tu me manques = I miss you. It has always seemed strange to say "You are missing to me"

Valencia Siff

I kept looking but could not find why "fendre" was selected. Since I use the word of the day in my French classes, the stories are important. please advise. Val


Hi Valencia,

I found the word "fendre" by playing today's word game (covered my eyes, threw open Petit Larousse, and "pinned" that word with my finger. (And I didn't cheat like Lori... )

Lori: Je vous taquine! (Just teasing!)

Gigi: glad you asked about "pamplemousse". Kim (from Eugene Oregon) wrote in a few weeks ago with an interesting note about this word. I'll try to post it, maybe Wednesday...


un heptagone: a seven-sided polygon.

...brings to mind my lucky, 7-sided tee-pee (the one in my dreams) that lives under the oak tree, beyond the clothesline, and beside the creek, here in Provence.



Profonde - as in La France Profonde.
Drive thru the wine country sampling Beaujolais Nouveau with French friends who know the wine makers and you have been to La France Profonde!


Hi Valencia,
I couldn't find it either... but I understand Kristin is very busy today... so, no story to illustrate the verb "fendre".

Following Kristin's instructions, here is my word: "secousse"

SECOUSSE – feminine noun
from the Latin, “succusus” = secoué (shaken)

---> jolt
---> shock
---> tremor

Eviter les secousses (in a car) = to avoid the bumps
Avancer par secousses = to jerk forward
Avancer sans une secousse = to move forward smoothly (sans = without)

Psychological, emotional
(maladie, mort) a été une secousse pour elle = (illness, death...) was a shock for her.

Secousse électrique (décharge électrique) = electric shock

In an earthquake, une secousse = a tremor

Hi Jules,
Enjoy your last days! = Profite de tes derniers jours!
Have a good journey back! = Bon voyage de retour!
WE'll miss YOU ... = TU vas NOUS manquer ...


Cacahouette - peanut. Always loved this word......
Beurre de cacahouette - hard to find in France, not popular.


"Épouvantable", completely horrible, as in, 'une situation épouvantable.' VERY expressive and, with 5 syllables, even the French think you know what you're doing!


Ruisselant - Streaming, dripping, running, very wet.


espérance - hope


Télécabine, téléphérique - ok so I cheated. All the random words I kept finding were boring, but I love these two words added to my vocabulary on a recent trip to Chamonix and Megeve.

They mean 'cable car', with a télécabine being a smaller 4-person type cable car, like the ones in Megeve that you can take to the top of Mt D'Arbois and Jaillet, and a téléphérique being a large multi-passenger car, such as the one you take to the top of Aguille de Midi.

It is good that these are such nice sounding words, making it a little easier to get over one's 'peur de hauteur'.


cerf-volant- kite
jouer au cerf-volant- to fly a kite.

In English if you say "Go fly a kite" it means "get out of here" I doubt it means the same in French. Does anybody know?


compte - account. tenir les comptes d'une maison : to keep the accounts or the books of a firm. Strangely appropriate based on your husband's former and my occupations.

Carol Folino

ou est la biblioteque?
where is the library??


Pecherman.. (fisherman)a word I made up when I lived in France

Helen Miller

Hi Kristin!

The word I turned to was "violet" which can be the flower or the color. However, violet de colere means black in the face or purple with rage; violet de froid means blue with cold.
That was fun, thanks!


"Fleuve" - veut dire "river". I have always loved the way this word flows off the tongue. Two more fun words I try to work into conversation in the US: "melange" (mixture) and "quotidienne" (everyday, commonplace)

Gigi & Leeza: "Pamplemousse" and "Pantouffles" are also two of my favorites!

Franklin Levin

SOUTERRAIN meaning "underground" or "underpass" or "tunnel beneath the earth"" is by far my favorite. I can't precisely remember when I encountered it, but it may have been a sign pointing to a passage under the all the traffic that gets you to the Arch in Paris. I suppose I like it because it actually says what it means.


champignon - One of my favorite lines from Le Petit Prince is when he calls the aviator "une espece de champignon."

Julie Schorr

"to funk it, to chicken out"
Tres bizarre!!!
C'est la classe de francais qui a trouve ce mot du jour!


l'écureuil. I love saying this word - which means squirrel. We have them all over our yard right now. I first looked up the word in high school when I had to give a speech in French class.


Today my (Turkish) students really wanted to know how to say never mind and whatever in French. I had to resort to the internet, but am not sure if I agree with the result...

ne vous occupez jamain = never mind
quoi que = whatever

Then I remembered that we used to always use laissez tomber (let it be) while I was in Guinea.


Since I live in San Francisco and never heard of the restaurant "La Poubelle", I looked it up. Here is one in Los Angeles.


'pamplemousse" comes from Dutch words for "big lemon" according to the Larousse "Dictionnaire d'etymologie."

"cacahuete" is derived from (no "o" in the last syllable) from the Aztec language.

Thanks to everyone for today's fun comments!
Thanks, Kristin, for all your work to keep this site going. I look forward to it! :)

Bon retour, Jules!


magnifique - magnificent (I didn't even cheat!)


To add to Diane's mountain transport words:
télésiège - chair lift (siège=seat)
téléski - drag lift, button lift where you go up the mountain ON your skis.

Télécabines and téléfériques are distinguished not only by size, but a télécabine system has many "cabines" which keep going in the forward direction on a single cable. A téléférique has two larger "cabines" which alternate direction, each on their own (usually two) support cables, pulled by a third cable.

Vous pensez que je suis ingénieur? Mais oui, c'est mon métier!


grappiller = to pick up (fruits); to glean

grappiller quelques sous = to scrape together some money

Found with Kristin's "open and point" method.

marsha danosky

chouchou--my dictionary says it means "teachers pet" but I heard a friend in France use it as a term of endearment for his daughter..

Mike Armstrong

Distraitement=absent-mindedly/distractedly. Perhaps as Kristin is now with her mom leaving. A fun exercise. And fun to read others' favorite words. It seems many of us really love the multisyllabic ones with the cool sounds like pamplemousse and the ones that are so French in their pronunciations like écureuil; there is nothing like that in English!


l'ombre = the shadow


I don't know where my dictionary is - but I remember learning degalas (sp?) which I think means disgusting. I remember learning swear words in french as well. I think 'putain' was the worst one I was told, which means prostitute? My life in France is a distant memory these days. Sad. Triste.


capucine [kapysin] nf [fleur] nasturtium


Moyennant, prep., by means of; in consideration of, conj. phr., moyennant que, on condition that

Cerelle Bolon

"CHOUETTE: f, owl, adj. (fam.) splendid, Am. swell." I cheated a bit, as I used this word as my poodle's name. She is wise like an owl, and surely "cool, or neat" which might be an update on that American translation.


Déborder - to overflow
La rivière a debordé de son lit - the river has crested its banks
déborder de joie - to be bursting with joy
Plein à deborder - full to the brim
Déborder le sujet - to go beyond the scope of the topic
être débordé de travail - to be up to one's eyes with work


Another cool thing about pamplemousse: It is one of those rare French nouns that can be either masculine or feminine, depending on how the writer is feeling. So, write either le pamplemousse or la pamplemousse -- you'll be correct in either case!


Pour moi...Pot-Au-Feu avec du vin rose!

Visit my website for a true tale of a starving student, a generous teacher and a life changing salad on a private beach in the South of France...for my gouter en Sud de la France,
click on the food and drink category. The name of the piece, An Intimate Act in the Garden of Earthly Delights.


Glad to hear that pamplemousse was the most oft-mentioned word. It was the first French word learned and the sound always makes me "sourire"

How about la lune f)- moon? Shining bright through a hazy night from my bedroom window, I love the mystery of the moon.

Thanks Kristin for an inspired post.

Karen K.

Open-and-point method (Je ne suis pas une tricheuse): :-)

"grelottant, e," = adj., shivering, shivery; "grelotter," vi, to shiver.

Fun and interesting game!


Allons-y! Let's go!

That's what came to my mind first, as that is what I seem to shout quite a bit when trying to get the kids out the door to school each morning... (I try to teach my children some French here and there, even if it is when I'm yelling at them!)


Récemment, je réfléchissais au sens de (la)randonnée c-à-d; trip, circuit, ramble, run, drive (voiture), or ride (vélo) parce qu'on discuter "hiking". Je me suis dit qu'il vient de "re" "donner" (give again), mais c'est une expression de la chasse qui vient de l'ancien verbe randoner, courir rapidement, qui vient de randon, vivacité, violence, et probablement, vient de l'allemand Rand, bord, extrémité: how's that for a random walk around the subject?!


Les moutons - not only does it mean sheep, it is also the white foam on the sea and the fluff underneath our beds!


Since I didn't see a reply to Val,
'etre tout feu tout flamme' is correct (because 'tout' describes the subject which you are describing with the expression, not the flame).

And Lizzy, the word you remember is dégueulasse (distasteful); I love that word too because it does sound worse in French.

And you may have caught mon égarement, discutait, not discuter. I always wondered how you could get lost (égaré) in a train station (gare); I'm a small-town boy.


un bonhomme de niege = Snowman

Jacqueline Bucar

avoir la dalle: to be famished
Dalle also can be used I think for drunk.
It's slang but used commonly


la climatisation - air conditioning.
This is the first word I ever learned in French and it has stuck with me. Love the way it sounds, too.

Jenni Middleton

Arak: Fermented rice with sugar...I think its Sake!


The comments about poubelle remind me of the French soap-opera "Plus belle la vie." We can't understand enough French to know what is going on and things don't seem to change much from year to to year, but we've always wondered if the name is a play on words - "Plus belle" = "Poubelle"

Soap operas tend to be 'garbage.'!


Le pneu: tire
I like the way it sounds in that the "p" is pronounced instead of being silent.

Angela Bell

"delices" -- somewhere between delight and delicacy... my "unofficial" definition.


de connaissance: [adjective form of connaissance = knowledge]
etre entre gens de connaissance: among familiar faces
etre en pays de connaissance - to be on familiar ground [dans un domaine]; to be among familiar faces [dans un milieu]


I'm commenting on all my favorite blogs to give them notice of Blog Action Day. Tomorrow tons of people will be posting about this years 'global cause' to help raise awareness. This year's theme is Poverty.
Full info & sign up is at -


I like the way coquelicot (poppy, la fleur) trips off the tongue. I tried to get it as my ebay password, but someone else got there first.


Enjoyed reading your words! Merci

Jeff C.

I like "porte-bonheur" [lucky charm]
(literally 'happiness carrier') as in the song by La Grande Sophie; "N'oublie pas, n'oublie pas, Je suis ton porte-bonheur".


Frimousse: C'est un mot gentil pour un visage qu'on aime bien, qu'on trouve mignon. "Cet enfant a une jolie frimousse!"

Jacqueline de Brisbane (Queensland)

Frou-frou - slight sound made by movement of silk especially. As in the (very old) song: Frou-frou, ... "par son jupon la femme, seduit, surtout, par son gentil frou-frou..." (Before la femme started wearing le pantalon!) Sorry pour le franglais.

dorothy dufour

I love to play with French words and translations.... An often used one is trop beaucoup, and in a book, hanky panky was called mouchoir pouchoir.

Good trip home Jules! A la prochaine.


Chère Allison,
Savez-vous que "Poubelle" vient d'un nom d'un Préfet de Paris, Eugène René Poubelle, qui a décrété l'utilisation d'un recipient pour faciliter le ramassage des ordures menagers.

J'aime bien le mot "Poutou" qui veut dire bisous en Toulousain.
Chaque fois, mon mari me pose de question, "Tu veux un bisous ( just a kiss) ou un baiser" ( a passionate kiss)? Et chaque fois, il reçois le même reponse.


"Tchin-Tchin" is "cheers"

joyce Hoover

bella-fille (F)persumably "bru" for a shorter version. One of my favorite people in Europe.


I chose "pifometre," which is a fun word, maybe not in the dictionary. I learned it while staying with a French family one summer, years ago. In English is might be "sniff meter," meaning something you know kind of by instinct, without being taught. I always liked the sound of it, and the lighthearted idea behind it.

Nancy Peterson

hydroglisseur (m. noun) hydroplane
using "point and choose" with French/English dictionary

Nancy Peterson

hydroglisseur (m. noun) hydroplane
using "point and choose" with French/English dictionary

Nancy Peterson

hydroglisseur (m. noun) hydroplane
using "point and choose" with French/English dictionary

Marcal Eilenstein

fourvoyer - |furvwaje| vt: to lead astray
se fourvoyer - vr: to be led astray.

Kinda like reading French-Word-A-Day comments when I should be working ;)


I wondered so much at 'poubelle' too the first time I heard it.. Only the french can have such a belle nom even for the trash can!

Alison (Canada)

My two favs are...
barbe à papa (nf) - cotton candy (I love the imagery on that one!)

autochtone (adj/nfm) - native (Just fun to say! [o/tok/ton])

...I am also a big fan of pantoufles...



While just in France, I learned Ralleur (the whinner) as my friend named her young boy who was not behaving up to par


Chipie - it generally means brat or annoying child, but is often used endearingly to mean something of a little rascal. I didn't find this one in the's my sobriquet! (Passed along from a very dear friend from Poitiers)


Thanks LArry for l'ombre. I heard it recently on Project Runway as a kind of material....the actual color of the material was shaded from light to dark.


jolie laide = pretty ugly

I love this phrase as it covers a concept for which there is no common English equivalent

Dave Ratcliffe

"pompette" = tipsy, as in meme pas pompette. My wife explaining she has NOT had too much wine!!

lyn kimber

my random word is meneur, meneuse, meaning ringleader.
with a suffix of "d'hommes", it's a leader of men.


never mind = n'en fait pas

used all over Morocco and France


choux = cabbage, chouchou = califlour
and chouchou is a term of endearment for a lover, child, anything beloved.


marécage - marsh/swamp. French makes a word like swamp sound good! I love that about the language.

aaron de l'encre

nimportnawak !! J'adore ce mot ! :D

"Il fait nimportnawak" = it's all out of whack/the highest level of sillyness, when nothing makes any sense.

Jacqueline de Brisbane (Queensland)

Gringalet: runt.
Morveux: snotty-nosed kid.
Mauviette: weakling.
Bas-bleu: female intellectual.
Guimauve: marshmallow.
N'importe quoi (ref aaron de l'encre)


une fois pour toutes: once and for all


plaisanter= to joke

tu plaisantes= you're kidding

Really enjoy this site, and it's good to learn new idioms, they're hard to hear if you don't know them.


Beverly -

According to my Oxford Hachette dictionary: The French equivalent of "Go fly a kite!" is "Va te faire voir!".


first word was
concours = competition

favorite word

oiseau = bird


Am a little late getting to this but couldn't resist the game. Opened my dictionary and landed on "guitare" which was too easy, so I looked at the word above it -- "guise." The expression "n'en faire qu'a sa guise" means "to do as one pleases." Nice phrase for a Saturday afternoon.


Studying French in a Catholic School in CT, moufle was defined as a scarf. 'un mofle por l'hiver.


Cristi noted that in Guinea they used "laissez tomber" to mean "let it be."

I have always known the expression to mean "to abandon" - interesting dialectal difference?

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