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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

Word of the day: Enième

Getting a sense that you've seen it all before? Here's a quasi-scientific term for you.

Word of the day: Enième
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know énième?

Because it’s useful when you want to say that something has happened a lot, without getting into specifics.

What does it mean?

Just as you can have deuxième, troisième, or quatrième (second, third or fourth), the word énième can replace any of these. It operates in the same way as “nth” does in English, standing in for a number in a series, even if the French term is rather more melodic.

Just like in English, the term can be used in a scientific context to denote an unspecified number in a series, or in general usage.

It’s more versatile in French, though, because it can also be used to emphasise repetition, in much the same way as the English word “umpteenth”. For example, Libération recently described “une énième réforme du bac” (an umpteenth reform to the end-of-school baccalaureate exam). In this case, it has negative connotations, since it suggests the government keeps trying, and failing, to find the right formula.

It is sometimes spelled nième, but always pronounced énième.

Use it like this

Il s’est fait virer pour la énième fois – He was fired for the umpteenth time

C’est une énième changement de plan – It’s an umpteenth change of plan

Member comments

  1. In the example, Use it like this, it should be: C’est un énième changement de plan. Not “une énième”

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FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

A brand new coinage in the French language that reflects the changing times.

French Expression of the Day: La Première ministre

Why do I need to know la Première ministre?

Because France has one now.

What does it mean?

La Première ministre – usually pronounced lah prem-ee-air mean-east-ruh– translates as “the prime minister,” but this spelling is different from what you might be used to seeing.

This title is feminised, indicating that the prime minister in question is a woman. Under former PMs such as Jean Castex, the masculine title Le Premier ministre was used.

Élisabeth Borne made headlines on May 16th not only because she was appointed as France’s second female prime minister, but also because she will be the first to use the feminisation of the work title: Madame la Première ministre. The female prime minister who held the position before her, Edith Cresson, used the masculine version of the title.

Feminising work titles has been controversial in France, and most titles like “le Premier ministre” have been automatically put in masculine form.

But in 2019, France’s infamous Academie Francaise, which polices the French language and typically resists any sweeping changes to it, changed their stance and said there was “no obstacle in principle” to the wholesale feminisation of job titles. 

Use it like this

Le Président Emmanuel Macron a fait une annonce importante. Élisabeth Borne est la Première ministre. – President Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement: Élisabeth Borne is the prime minister.

“Madame la Première ministre, qui avez-vous choisi pour diriger votre nouveau gouvernement ?” a demandé le journaliste. – “Madame Prime Minister, who have you chosen to lead your new government?” asked the journalist.

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