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French Idioms and Proverbs

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Abbattre Du Travail
To Get Through a Lot of Work
Abbattre Ses Cartes
To Show One's Hand
Accorder Ses Violons
To Get One's Story Straight
Acheter Chat En Poche
To Buy a Pig in a Poke
Aide-toi, Le Ciel T'aidera
Heaven Helps Those Who Help Themselves
Aller De Soi
To Be Self-evident
Aller Sans Dire
To Go Without Saying
Appelons Un Chat Un Chat
Let's Call a Spade a Spade
Lets call a cat a cat
Appuyer Sur Le Champignon
To Keep One's Foot on the Accelerator
Après La Pluie Le Beau Temps
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
After the rain, the nice weather
Arriver Comme Mars En Carême
To Happen As Sure As Night Follows Day
To arrive like March in Lent
Arriver Comme Un Chien Dans Un Jeu De Quille
To Turn up at the Least Opportune Moment
To arrive like a dog during a game of skittles
Au Besoin
If Necessary
Au Bout De Son Rouleau
At the End of One's Rope
Au Case Ã’u
Just in Case
In the case where
Au Grande Air
In the Great Outdoors
Au Pif
A Rough Guess
At the conk or schnoz (nose)
Au Poil
Au Ralenti
In Slow Motion
Avaler Des Couleuvres
To Swallow One's Pride
Avoir Autres Chats à Fouetté
To Have Other Fish to Fry
To have other cats to whip
Avoir Beau Faire
To Be in Vain
Avoir De La Bouteille
To Become Mellow
Avoir Des Ennuis
To Have Problems
Avoir Des Tuyaux
To Be in the Know
To have pipelines
Avoir Du Blé
To Have Money
To have wheat
Avoir Du Chien
To Be Attractive
To have some dog
Avoir Du Cran
To Have Guts
Be brave
Avoir Du Foin Dans Les Bottes
To Have Feathered One's Nest
Avoir Du Pain Sur La Planche
To Have a Lot to Do
To have bread on the (bread)board
Avoir Du Pot
To Be Lucky
Avoir La Chair De Poule
Hen flesh
Avoir La Dalle
To Be Starving
Be famished
Avoir Le Bras Long
To Have Influence
Have Pull
Avoir Le Cafard
To Have the Blues
Avoir Le Dessus
To Be on Top
Get the best of
Avoir Le Diable Au Corps
To Be Full of the Devil
Avoir Le Sac
To Be Rich
To have a bag (full)
Avoir Les Doigts Crochus
To Be Tight-fisted
Be stingy
Avoir Les Foies
To Have Cold Feet
Avoir Le Trac
To Have Stagefright
Avoir La Femme
Cannot Be Bothered
Avoir La Frite
To Be in Shape
Avoir La Frousse
To Be Scared Stiff
Be Scared to Death
Avoir La Gueule De Bois
To Have a Hangover
To have a mouth of wood
Avoir La Langue Bien Pendu
To Have the Gift of the Gab
To have a well-hung tongue
Avoir Louche
To Be in Trouble
Have problems
Avoir Mauvais Espirit
To Be Uncooperative
Avoir Quelqu'un Dans La Peau
To Be Madly in Love With Someone
To have someone in your skin
Avoir Un Chat Dans La Gorge
To Have a Frog in the Throat
Literally, "to have a cat in the throat"
Avoir Une Araignée Au Plafond
To Have Bats in the Belfry
Literally: To have a spider on the ceiling.
Avoir Une Dent Contre Quelqu'un
To Hold a Grudge Against Someone
To have a tooth against someone
Avoir Un Petit Creux
To Be Hungry
To have a little hollow (in the stomach)
Avoir Un Poil Dans La Main
To Be Extremely Lazy
To have a hair in the hand
Bagage Intellectual
Fund of Knowledge
Bas De Gamme
Low Quality
Low end
Bec Et Ongle
Tooth and Nail
Bec Fin
Bien Dans Sa Peau
At Ease With Oneself
Well in one's skin
À Bon Chat, Bon Rat
Tit for Tat
To a good cat, good rat
Bouche Cousue
Mum's the Word
A stitched mouth
Bout De L'an
A Memorial Service
The end of the year
Casser Du Sucre Sur Le Dos De Quelqu'un
To Talk About Someone Behind His Back
To break sugar on the back of someone
Casser Le Morceau
To Spill the Beans
Casser Les Pieds à Quelqu'un
To Bore Someone Stiff
To break his feet
Casser La Graine
To Have a Bite to Eat
To break grain
Casser La Pipe
To Kick the Bucket
To break the pipe
Casser Sa Pipe
To Kick the Bucket
To shuffle off this mortal coil
Cent Fois Annoncé
A hundred times announced
C'est Dans La Poche
It's in the Bag
In the pocket
Chanter Comme Une Casserole
To Be a Lousy Singer
Sing like a saucepan; "un casserole" may by itself refer to a lousy singer
à Chaque Coup
Every Time
Chercher Midi à Quatorze Heures
To Look for Complications
To look for noon at 2 pm
Chose Promise, Chose Due
Promises Are Made to Be Kept
Thing promised, thing owing
Claquer La Porte Au Nez à Qqun
To Refuse to Listen to Someone
To slam the door in his face
Claquer La Porte
To Leave in a Huff
To slam the door
Comme Cul Et Chemise
As Thick As Thieves
Like your backside and your shirt
Connaître La Musique
To Know All the Details
To know the music
Coup D'air
A Chill, a Draught
Coup De Fil
A Telephone Call
Fil: wire
Coup De Foudre
Love at First Sight
Coup De Fusil
An Unexpected High Bill
As in "gunshot"
Coup De Main
A Helping Hand
Coup De Tête
An Impulsive Act
Coup D'oeil
At First Glance
Couper Les Cheveux En Quatre
Splitting Hairs
Cutting hairs in quarters
Coup Sur Coup
One After Another
Crever De Faim
To Be Starving
Crever D'ennui
To Be Bored Stiff
Crever De Rire
To Split One's Sides With Laughter
Découvrir Le Pot Aux Roses
To Uncover a Secret
To discover the pot of roses
Demander La Lune
To Ask for the Moon
Dire Ses Quatre Vérités
To Not Pull Any Punches
To tell him his four truths
Donner Sa Langue Au Chat
To Give Up, Stop Guessing
To give one's tongue to the cat
Dormir Comme Une Souche
To Sleep Like a Log
En Suffrance
Awaiting Delivery
In suffering
Envoyer Sur Les Roses
To Brush Someone off
To send on the roses
Facile Comme Bonjour
Easy As Pie
Easy as hello
Faire Des Châteaux En Espagne
To Daydream
To build castles in Spain
Faire Du Lard
To Sit Around Doing Nothing
To make fat
Faire D'une Pierre Deux Coups
To Kill Two Birds With One Stone
Faire La Cour
To Make Love
Faire Le Pont
To Take an Extra Day off
To make a bridge (between a holiday and week-end); also used in wrestling and yoga
Faire La Grasse Matinée
To Sleep Late
Faire La Petite Bouche
To Turn One's Nose up
To make a little mouth
Faire Une Belle Jambe
A Lot of Good That Did
To make a pretty leg
Faire Un Temps De Toussaint
To Have Cold, Grey Weather
To have All Saints Day weather
Fais Gaffe
To Be Careful
Ironically meaning 'make a mistake'
Haute Comme Trois Pommes
Knee-high to a Grasshopper
As high as three apples
Heureux Au Jeu, Malheureux En Amour
Lucky at Cards, Unlucky at Love
Happy at the game, unhappy at love
Il Faut Casser Le Noyau Pour Avoir L'amande
No Pain, No Gain
The nut must be cracked to get the almond
Il Faut Ménager La Chèvre Et Le Chou
One Must Run With the Hare and Hunt With the Hounds
Literally: One must spare both the goat and the cabbage.
Il a Les Dents Longues
He Has His Sights Set High
Literally: He has long teeth.
Il Ne Casse Pas Trois Pattes à Un Canard
He's Nothing to Write Home About
He doesn't break three feet on a duck
Il N'y a Pas De Fumée Sans Feu
There's No Smoke Without Fire
Il Pleut Des Cordes
It's Raining Cats and Dogs
It's raining ropes
Il était Une Fois
Once Upon a Time...
Il Y a Du Monde Au Balcon
She Has a Big Bust
There's a lot of people on the balcony
Il Y a Quelque Chose Qui Cloche
Something is Amiss
There is a bell sounding
J’ai Mal Aux Cheveux
I Have a Hangover
Literally: I have bad hair (because it hurts).
J'en Ai Ras Le Bol
I'm Sick of It
I have a bowel full of it
Jouer Comme Des Pieds
To Play Poorly
To play like feet
Jusqu'au Bout Des Ongles
Through and Through
Right to one's fingertips
Lache Pas La Patate
Don't Give up
A Cajun expression, don't drop the potato
L'affaire Est Dans Le Sac
It's in the Bag
L'arbre Cache Souvent La Forêt
Can't See the Forest for the Trees
The tree often hides the forest
Le Chat Parti, Les Souris Dansent
When the Cat's Away, the Mice Will Play
Will dance
Le Nouveau Est Arrivé
Beaujolais Nouveau is Here
Les Chiens Ne Font Pas Des Chats
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree
Dogs don't make cats
Les Murs Ont Des Oreilles
The Walls Have Ears
L'habit Ne Fait Pas Le Moine
Clothes Don't Make the Man
The habit doesn't make the monk
Libre Comme L'air
Free As a Bird
Free as the air
Loin Des Yeux, Loin Du Coeur
Out of Sight, out of Mind
La Question Ne Se Pose Pas
It's Not an Issue
The question isn't asked
La Vérité Sort De La Bouche Des Enfants
Out of the Mouth of Babes
Mener Par Le Bout Du Nez
To Lead Around by the Nose
Mettre De L'eau Dans Son Vin
To Tone It Down
To put water in one's wine
Mettre Les Pieds Dans Le Plat
To Put Your Foot in It
To mess up, speak with excessive candor, or to discuss something inapropriate
Mettre Sa Langue Dans Sa Poche
To Remain Quiet
To put one's tongue in one's pocket
Mieux Vaut Tard Que Jamais
Better Late Than Never
Mon Oeil
I Should Say Not
My eye!
Mon Petit Doigt Me L'a Dit
A Little Bird Told Me
My little finger told me
Monter En épingle
To Blow out of Proportion
To mount on a pin
Mon Vieux
My Dear Friend
Old boy
Métro, Boulot, Dodo
Same Old Routine, Work, Work, Work
Nager Entre Deux Eaux
To Play Both Ends Against the Middle
Ne Manquer Pas D'air
To Have Some Nerve/cheek
To not lack air
N'en Revenir Pas
To Not Be Able to Get over Something
To not come back from it
Ne Pas Avoir Un Radis
To Be Broke
Not even have a radish
Ne Pas Réveiller Le Chat Qui Dort
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Don't wake a cat who is sleeping
Ne Pas être Dans Son Assiette
To Feel out of Sorts
Ne Tirer Pas Sur Le Pianiste
Don't Shoot the Messenger
Don't shoot the pianist
Occupe-toi De Tes Oignons
Mind Your Own Business
Stay busy with your own onions
Opération Escargot
Go-slow Operation
Operation snail
Oui, Quand Les Poules Auront Des Dents
When Pigs Fly
Literally: Yes, when chickens have teeth.
Paraître Devant Dieu
To Kick the Bucket
To appear before God
Parler Français Comme Une Vache Espagnole
To Speak French Badly
Like a Spanish cow
Passer Du Coq à L'aîne
To Change the Subject
To pass from the rooster to the donkey
Passer Une Nuit Blanche
To Spend a Sleepless Night
Pass a white night
Pédaler Dans La Choucroûte
To Spin One's Wheels
To pedal in the sauerkraut
Petit Chou
A term of endearment - literally "little cabbage"
Pièce De Résistance
Main Course
Or best/main part of something.
Pierre Qui Roule N'amasse Pas Mousse
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss
Pleurer Comme Une Madeleine
To Cry Like a Baby
Plus ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose
The More Things Change the More They Remain the Same
Poisson D'avril
April Fool
Fish of April
Porter Le Chapeau
To Take Responsibility
To wear the hat
Prendre Les Jambes Au Cou
To Run Away
To take your legs to your neck
Prendre Quelqu'un La Main Dans Le Sac
To Catch Someone Red-handed
Quand on Parle Du Loup
Speak of the Devil
When you talk about the wolf (you see its tail)
Quelle Mouche T'a Piqué?
What's Gotten Into You?
What fly bit you?
Qui Casse Les Verres Les Paie
As You Make Your Bed, So You Must Lie in It
He who breaks the glasses has to pay for them
Qui Ne Risque Rien, N'a Rien
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Qui Se Ressemble S'assemble
Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Qui Vivra Verra
Time Will Tell
Who lives will see
Revenons à Nos Moutons
Let's Get Back to the Subject at Hand
Let's return to our sheep
Rien à Voir
Nothing to Do
Nothing to see
Rira Bien Qui Rira Le Dernier
Who Laughs Last Laughs Best
Rouler Sous La Table
To Be Drunk
To roll under the table
Rouler Sur L'or
To Be in the Money
Rolling in gold
Réussir Un Bon Coup
To Pull It off
Sans Oublier
Last but Not Least
Without forgetting
Sauve Qui Peut
Run for Your Life
Save who can
Sauver La Mise
To Save the Day
To save the stake/ante
Se Casser La Tête
To Rack One's Brains
Se Débrouiller
To Get Along Ok; to Manage
To de-fog
Se La Couler Douce
To Take It Easy
To pour oneself a smooth one
Se Payer La Tête
To Pull Someone's Leg
Se Rouler Les Pouces
To Twiddle One's Thumbs
To roll your thumbs
Se Sentir Visé
To Feel Singled out
To feel as one being aimed at
Se Vendre Comme Des Petits Pains
To Sell Like Hot Cakes
Souffler Ses Bougies
To Celebrate One's Birthday
To blow out one's candles
Sucer Les Pissenlits Par La Racine
To Be Dead and Buried
To be sucking dandelion roots
Sur Le Champ
On the field
Sur Le Fait
On the fact
Tenir Le Coup
To Cope
To hold back the blow
Tirer Une Carotte
To Swindle
To pull a carrot
Tomber Dans Les Pommes
To Faint
To fall into the apples
Tomber Dans La Marmite
To Fall Under a Spell
From the comic strip Astérix
Tomber En Rade
To Run out of Gas
To fall (be stuck) in the harbor
Tomber Juste
To Hit the Nail on the Head
To fall correctly
Tomber Sur La Tête
To Have a Screw Loose
To fall on your head
Tomber Toute
To Be a Lady's Man
To fall [them] all
Tourner Sept Fois La Langue Dans La Bouche Avant De Parler
To Think Long and Hard Before Speaking
To turn the tongue seven times within the mouth before speaking
à Tout Bout De Champs
At Every Opportunity
At the end of every field
Tout Ce Qui Brille N'est Pas or
All That Glitters is Not Gold
Tout Est Bien Que Finit Bien
All is Well That Ends Well
être à Coté De La Plaque
To Not Have a Clue
To be way off the mark; to be in left field; to not know shit
être Dans De Beaux Draps
To Be in a Fine Mess
To be in some nice sheets
être Dans La Marmelade
To Be in Trouble
To be in the jam
être à La Page
To Be up to Date
On the right page
Trempé Comme Une Soupe
Soaking Wet
Soaked like a soup
être à Poil
To Be Stark Naked
être Porté Sur La Chose
To Have a One Track Mind
To be focused on the thing
être Sur Le Pavé
To Be out of Work
On the sidewalk
être Un Ours Mal Léché
To Be Grumpy
To be a badly licked bear
Tu Te Rends Compte
Can You Believe It?
In English it is the declarative, "you realize"
Un Beau Coup D'oeil
A Nice View
Un Bouche Inutile
An Unproductive Person
A useless mouth
Un Bout Du Monde
The Middle of Nowhere
At the end of the earth
Un Coup De Barre
Temporary Extreme Fatigue
Un Coup De Ciel
Mana from Heaven
Un Coup De Destin
A Fateful Blow
Un De Ces Quatre Matins
One of These Days
One of these four mornings
Une Pane D'oreiller
To Forget to Wake up
A pillow failure
Un Garçon Manqué
A boy missing
Un Tiens Vaut Mieux Que Deux Tu L'auras
A Bird in Hand is Better Than Two in the Bush
Valoir Le Coup
It's Worth It
Ça Vaut Le Coup
It's Worth It
Vendre La Peau De L'ours
To Count One's Chickens Before They're Hatched
To sell the bear's skin (before killing it)
Vouloir, C'est Pouvoir
Where There's a Will, There's a Way

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