8 French idioms to celebrate 14 juillet

The 14th July marks a national holiday in France, “le quatorze juillet”, or otherwise known as Bastille Day in English. The day commemorates the storming of the Bastille, originally a fortress but also used as a prison in 1789, which marked the beginning of the French revolution, but now it marks a national holiday.

“My personal experience of the 14 juillet comes down to one thing: the fireworks! Every town, big or small, has fireworks at sundown. It lasts about an hour; everyone gathers to see it with their family and friends.”

Amelie Mailat, Service Delivery Manager

“For the 14 juillet, I used to go to the town centre with my parents to see the défilé (the march) and then in the evening, we would go and see the fireworks by the river. You could also watch the Paris events on TV but it’s often much nicer to see it in person in your own town – there’s a great atmosphere!”

Lucie Ledentu, In-House French Translator

French language idioms

In France, national holidays are taken on the day of the week on which they fall – they aren’t taken in lieu on a Monday like in the UK. So when workers take an extra day off surrounding the national holiday, they call it “faire le pont” – to ‘make the bridge’ to the weekend.

We love language – it is, after all, what we do – so we’ve compiled 8 of the best, most bizarre French idioms – why not test them out to celebrate 14 juillet? 

“Poser un lapin à quelqu’un”

Meaning – to stand someone up (on a date)

Literally – to leave a rabbit for someone

 poser un lapin a quelqu'un

“Avoir la patate/la frite”

Meaning – to feel energised

Literally – to have the potato/the French fry

 avoir la patate

“Occupe-toi de tes oignons”

Meaning – to mind your own business

Literally – to deal with your own onions

occupe-toi de test oignons

“Etre branché”

Meaning – to be in the know

Literally – to be plugged in

etre branche

“En faire tout un fromage”

Meaning – to make a big fuss

Literally – to make a whole cheese about it

en faire tout un fromage

“Ce n’est pas le Pérou”

Meaning – it’s nothing to write home about

Literally – it’s not Peru

ce n'est pas la perou

“Manger sur le pouce”

Meaning – to grab a quick snack/bite to eat

Literally – to eat on the thumb

manger sur le pouce


As well as being a self-confessed language geek and baking fanatic, Fiona is the Digital Marketing Manager at Capita Translation and Interpreting. When she's not writing blogs, she often dreams of touring France one patisserie at a time.

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