French Language Blog

Cat Got Your Tongue? Cat-Related Expressions in French! Posted by on Jun 18, 2015 in Vocabulary

Ah, June.  The latin name is Junius. Roman déesse (goddess) Juno, the protector of and special counselor of the state, says the month was named after her. It’s also the month that starts summer. Warm temperatures and White Nights in the northern countries. At the beginning of the month, the sun rises in la constellation of Taurus. By the end of June, the sun is rising in the constellation of Gemini. It’s also the month for dads and grads. Going further, it’s the most common month to marry in in the US.

A lot is going on in June, but do you know what else it is? Adopt-A-Cat month! If you’re looking to add a new member to the family and are able to take care of one, head on down to la fourrière (animal shelter – you can also say un refuge) and adopt un minou (kitty) adorable!

In addition to cats finding their way into our hearts, they’ve also found their way into our language.

  • What’s in the box? Be careful – curiosity killed the cat!
  • Is it raining hard? Yup – it’s raining cats and dogs!
  • Afraid of the dark? Don’t be such a scaredy cat!

Le chat is also a common theme in les expressions idiomatiques (idioms – quoi??  a fixed phrase or expression with a figurative meaning that is different from the literal meaning. Trying to translate them directly can lead to dreadful results). You can also find them in proverbs. Check out a few examples below:

  • Have something better to do? In French, you have other cats to whip.
  • When the cat’s away, the mice will play? Not in French – When the cat isn’t there, the mice dance!
  • Once bitten, twice shy? Not quite – in French, a scalded cat fears cold water.


Mais ne vous inquiétez pas (but don’t worry) !
We’re here to help you with a list of idiomatic expressions and proverbs that use chat.


À bon chat, bon rat – Tit for tat
Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide – Once bitten, twice shy
Les chiens ne font pas des chats – The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
La nuit tous les chats sont gris – All cats are gray in the dark
Peu importe que le chat soit gris ou noir pourvu qu’il attrape les souris – it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white if it’s good at catching mice


Idiomatic Expressions

acheter chat en poche – to buy a pig in a poke
appeler un chat un chat – to call a spade a spade
avoir d’autres chats à fouetter – to have other fish to fry
avoir des yeux de chat – to have great night vision
avoir un chat dans la gorge – to have a frog in your throat
“C’est toi le chat !” – you’re it!
un chat retombe toujours sur ses pattes – cats have 9 lives
donner sa langue au chat – to give up guessing something
être comme chien et chat – to fight like cats and dogs
ne réveillez pas le chat qui dort – let sleeping dogs lie
emporter le chat – to leave without saying goodbye
faire une toilette de chat – briskly wash yourself without getting too wet


Can you think of any more, or does the cat have your tongue?

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About the Author: Josh Dougherty

Just your typical francophile. If you have any topics you'd like me to discuss, feel free to let me know!


  1. Marie-Claude André:

    A bon chat, bon rat : two can play that game
    Jouer au chat et à la souris : to play cat and mouse with sb
    Pipi de chat : monkey’s piss / pile of crap
    Une chatte n’y retrouverait pas ses petits : no wonder it is all so confusing
    Une écriture de chat : spidery writing
    Chat à neuf queues : cat o’nine tails