10 Fun French Idioms You Can Actually Use

French idioms are a fun way to connect more with the language as you learn it.  As a refresher, idioms are figurative phrases differing from the literal meaning.  The list below is a compilation of my favorite French idioms:

Avoir le cœur sur la main

To be kind-hearted.  Literal translation: to have the heart on the hand.

Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter

To think a lot of oneself.  Literal translation: to believe yourself out from Jupiter’s thigh.

Appeler un chat un chat

To call a spade a spade.  Literal translation: to call a cat a cat.

French Idioms Call a Cat a Cat
Photo by Unknown

Faire l’âne pour avoir du son

To play dumb.  Literal translation: to make the donkey have some sound.

Ramasser une bûche

To take a bad fall.  Literal translation: to pick-up a log.

Poser un lapin à quelqu’un

To stand someone up.  Literal translation: lay the rabbit on someone.

Casser les pieds à quelqu’un

To annoy or bore someone.  Literal translation: break someone’s feet.

Avoir le cafard

To have the blues.  Literal translation: to have the cockroach.

French Idioms Have the Blues
Photo by Unknown

Enlever une épine du pied à quelqu’un

To get someone out of a jam.  Literal translation: remove the thorn from someone’s foot.

Tomber sur on os

To hit a snag.  Literal translation: to fall on one’s bones.

What do you think of these French idioms?  Do you use figurative phrases as part of your normal conversation?  Try using one of these next time- you might really knock it out of the ballpark.

À la prochaine!


  1. Gabrielle

    March 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    To play dumb. Literal translation: to make the donkey have some sound. it’s wrong it’s not sound
    and the sentence is wrong too, it’s: faire l’âne pour avoir du FOIN (hay) not du SON, (his)
    I’m french.

    1. Jessica

      March 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Gabrielle, thank you for your comment. That’s very interesting. I found these idioms through some research, so perhaps it varies by region. I know that English idioms are not all the same across the United States, so I’m wondering if that’s the case here. Thanks again.

  2. Eric Mitchell

    March 10, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Bonjour Jessica, I wondered about the last one, should it be tomber sur ‘on’ os, or tomber sur ‘un’ os. It just seems to hit the ear a little odd with ‘on’ os.

    1. Jessica

      March 12, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Hi Eric, thank you for your comment! I found these idioms through some research, but I wonder if it’s slang. I will look into that a little further. I was just entertained by the list, mostly. Thank you again!

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