Stephanie Hallett
November 03, 2016 4:14 pm
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Every day, we borrow from other languages to express sentiments that can’t be described using our native tongue. In English, for example, we’ve adopted the Latin phrases “vice versa” — meaning “the other way around” — and “Carpe diem,” which means “seize the day.”

And yet, there are still so many words without English translations (especially ones in French) that we’d love to be able to use regularly, but just haven’t learned yet. So, in the spirit of cross-cultural education, we present 10 French bon mots and other terms that have no English equivalent. Feel free to add these to your language arsenal and whip them out as needed.

1. L’ésprit d’escalier

Literally “staircase wit,” this French idiom describes that moment when you walk away from a conversation and suddenly the perfect witty response hits you — a little too late.

2. Cache-misère

This phrase describes an effort to conceal something unpleasant; it can be used to describe good clothes worn to hide shabby clothes beneath, or a temporary fix to smooth over a bad situation.

3. L’appel du vide

This translates literally to “the call of the void,” but it also describes the inexplicable feeling of wanting to jump from a high place.

4. Retrouvailles

This is the feeling you get when you pick up a friend from the airport after a long time apart. It describes the joy of reuniting with someone.

5. La douleur exquise

We can all relate to this one: This phrase describes the exquisite pain of unrequited love.

6. Empêchement

Like an “impediment,” this word describes the things that come up last minute and prevent you from attending an event.

7. Dépaysement

Similar to the sensation we call “culture shock,” this word describes the feeling of displacement or disorientation experienced when you arrive in a foreign country.

8. Flâner

Meaning to stroll leisurely without any intended destination, as you would while on vacation in Paris.

9. Cartonner

A verb meaning that something has hit the target, or been a smashing success. Usually used to describe films that have done exceptionally well at the box office.

10. Ras-le-bol

To be completely fed up.

French speakers: What else would you add to this list?

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