For members


French Word of the Day: Coqueluche

Coqueluche is a very bad thing to have - but an excellent thing to be.

French Word of the Day: Coqueluche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know the word coqueluche?

Because this word has two radically different meanings and it is important not to get confused. 

What does it mean? 

The first translation of coqueluche, pronounced “cock-uh-loosh”, is “whooping cough”. 

This is a highly contagious bacterial disease, also sometimes referred to in English as “pertussis” or the “100-day cough”. 

Symptoms can include fits of coughing that can be so bad that they lead to vomiting and broken ribs. The sharp intake of breath can resemble a high-pitched whooping noise. Some believe that this sounds a bit like the crow of a rooster – or coq in French – hinting at the word’s etymology. 

Fortunately, in many countries around the world, children are vaccinated against whooping cough at a young age so it’s a lot less prevalent these days than it once was. 

The other translation of coqueluche is radically different – it can mean “darling” or “favourite”. It is often used to talk about public personalities but can also be used in a scholarly setting. 

Use it like this 

When talking about the disease, you could use the following phrases: 

Le nombre de cas a très fortement baissé depuis l’introduction du vaccin contre la coqueluche – The number of cases has fallen a lot since the introduction of the vaccine against whooping cough 

La coqueluche est très contagieuse – Whooping cough is very contagious

When using coqueluche in the other sense of the word, you could say the following: 

La princesse Diana fut la coqueluche des médias – Princess Diana was the darling of the media 

Avec mon accent charmant, je suis la coqueluche de la class – With my charming accent, I am the class favourite 

Je me révolte contre l’idée qu’il est la coqueluche de toutes les dames – I disagree with the idea that he is the favourite of all the women 


There are some alternative ways to describe someone as “the favourite”: le préféré, le favori, le privilégie

Other expressions include:

Le chouchou  – The teacher’s pet

Le lèche-cul – The arse licker 

L’idole – The idol 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.