Coup d’état

The phrase coup d'état is a loan phrase from the French. Loanwords and loan phrases are terms that have been taken from other languages and used as English words and phrases. Another term for a loanword is a borrowed word. Loanwords and loan phrases come into the English language when English speakers come into contact with other languages and cultures. When loanwords and loan phrases first enter the English language, they are used by bilingual speakers and usually maintain the original … [Read more...]

Kerfuffle vs brouhaha

A kerfuffle is something that causes disruption or change in atmosphere, especially in public. Notice only one l, the word is not kerfluffle. It originated outside the United States, but is understood within. The plural is kerfuffles. The word comes from the Scot term carfuffle. A brouhaha, pronounced (brew ha ha), is the emotion or reaction of excitement surrounding an event or issue. Good synonyms are uproar and hubbub. The plural is brouhahas. The word comes directly from French. It … [Read more...]

Belle vs beau

Belle is a noun for a gorgeous female, sometimes signified as the most gorgeous at a particular gathering. It is pronounced like bell. It comes from French and is the feminine version if beau. Beau is French and literally means handsome or beautiful in the masculine form. However, the word in English is used to describe a woman's male companion, such as a boyfriend or admirer. The plural form has two spellings. The original French is beaux  while the English version is beaus, with the French … [Read more...]

Au fait

  Au fait, pronounced (oh fey), is borrowed from French. It literally means to the point or to the fact. In English we used it to say that someone has the whole picture, complete knowledge of something, or is socially correct. Grammatically it works as an adjective. The phrase is more commonly found outside the United States, and usually used with the preposition with. To be au fait with could almost be a synonym for to be familiar with. Examples The quality of books, television … [Read more...]

En masse

  En masse is an adverb used to describe a group doing an action all at once or as a single entity. It is an appositive, which means it comes after the word it modifies. People run en masse. It comes from French and literally means in a mass. Sometimes en masse is used as an adjective. The dictionary does not define this as an officially accepted use, but it is common enough that the meaning should be clear to readers. Convention seems to dictate that when en masse is an adjective it … [Read more...]

Repertoire or repertory

Repertoire is a mass noun for the variety of skills a person or company is capable of accomplishing. Usually it is used in reference to musicians or theater companies and what parts or pieces they are prepared to perform. However, this term is common enough it can be used outside of the artistic world. Repertoire is pronounced \ˈre-pə(r)-ˌtwär\ (reh per twar). Repertory is a synonym for repertoire, but it can also has several other definitions. It may mean a certain kind of group of actors … [Read more...]

Touche or touché

Touché  means that someone has said something especially witty or knowledgeable in a debate or discussion. Sometimes it is used to compliment a particularly funny comeback to a joke or insult. Touché is an interjection borrowed from the sport of fencing. It is French from the word meaning to touch. In fencing the term is used to admit that your opponent has hit you. The term has been used in English since the turn of the twentieth century. However, the accent mark is still listed as the … [Read more...]

Liquor vs liqueur

Liquor is a synonym for alcohol, usually a fermented drink that has been distilled. Distillation is basically the process of taking a fermented liquid and purifying it which removes water and therefore makes the concentration of alcohol higher. In North America, hard liquor is a common synonym. As a verb, to liquor something is to either coat it with oil or grease, or it can mean to drink enough alcohol to become drunk. The latter definition is usually used with the … [Read more...]


Faux-naïf (faux-naif) is a French loanword which literally means falsely naive. In English its meaning is much the same, a person or object pretending to be innocent or unknowing in order to fool someone or get something underhandedly. Faux-naif can be an adjective or a noun. It can be spelled with or without the ï, though it is listed in the dictionary as with. The two versions most likely comes from the assimilation into English. Its first known use was relatively recent, 1948, and we … [Read more...]

Trooper or trouper

If someone is a trouper he or she does what needs to be done without complaining or whining. A trouper is also part of a troupe, or a group of people, usually an acting troupe or theatre troupe. If someone is a trooper he or she is a soldier at entry level or an officer in the police. In British English it is also a ship used to move troops. Both words come from the French troupe, which carries the same meaning as today. Some dictionaries list trooper as a synonym of trouper, however, … [Read more...]

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