Funny French Phrases


Ah, la vache! (oh, the cow!) and other funny french phrases

One of the first funny french phrases I remember is when I was working at a Parisian lycée as an english teacher.

In one of my classes, I decided to teach my group of young parisiens (and les parisiennes) how to play “Simon Says” – in english.

We were going through all the english words – head is tête, nose is nez, ears is oreilles….then we got to toes. I pointed to my toes and asked them what they thought the english word was (les enfants, quel est le mot?).

I waited a few moments, hoping one of the children would put up their hand and answer.

Sophie, a bright and inquisitive student, looked at me with a puzzled face, and then piped up: “Feet fingers?”

I tried my best not to burst out laughing (I was the teacher so had to maintain my composure!)

“Non, Sophie, c’est ‘toes'”, I said, with the most serious face I could muster.

Well, I gave Sophie top marks anyway for trying. After all, in french, the word for toes is doigts des pied – which means, in literal translation, feet fingers!

Twenty Funny French Phrases

Over the years, we’ve come across many funny french phrases, not just common sayings that have been around for a while, but colloquial french phrases and slang that’s used in everyday conversation, sometimes coming in (and out) of fashion.

Here are twenty of our favourites…

  1. Ah, la vache! (lit: oh, the cow!): oh my god!
  2. à l’eau de rose (lit: with rose water): sentimental/soppy
  3. à toutes les sauces (lit: with all the sauces): in all sorts of ways
  4. au poil (lit: to a hair): perfect; flawless
  5. avoir le gueule de bois (lit: to have a wooden face): to have a hangover
  6. avoir le bourdon (lit: to have the bumblebee): to feel down/have the blues
  7. avoir le cafard (lit: to have the cockroach): be down in the dumps; have the blues
  8. avoir le démon de midi (lit: to have the midday demon): to have a midlife crisis
  9. avoir un chat dans la gorge ) (lit: to have a cat in your throat): to have a frog in your throat
  10. avoir une faim de loup (to have the hunger of a wolf): to be ravenous/starving hungry
  11. avoir une peur bleue de quelque chose (lit: to have the blue fear): to be scared stiff of something
  12. avoir une araignée au plafond (lit: to have a spider in the head):to have a screw loose
  13. c’est la fin des haricots (lit: that’s the end of the beans) : it’s the last straw/its hopeless or that’s the end of it
  14. chercher des puces (lit: to look for fleas): to bug/annoy someone
  15. les carottes sont cuites (lit: the carrots are cooked): I’ve had it/that’s enough
  16. quand on parle du loup (on en voit la queue) (lit: When you talk about the wolf (you see its tail)): speak of the devil
  17. quelle mouche t’a piqué? (lit: which fly bit you?): what’s your problem? what’s the matter with you?
  18. se fair une toile (lit: to make a fabric): Go to the movies.
  19. un film trop mortel (lit: a film too mortal): such a good movie
  20. zut alors! (no translation!): holy smokes/darn!

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