Definition of mot juste
: the exactly right word or phrasing
Did You Know?
English was apparently unable to come up with its own mot juste to refer to a word or phrase that expresses exactly what the writer or speaker is trying to say and so borrowed the French term instead. The borrowing was still very new when George Paston (pen name of Emily Morse Symonds) described a character's wordsmithery in her 1899 novel A Writer's Life thusly: "She could launch her sentences into the air, knowing that they would fall upon their feet like cats, her brain was almost painlessly delivered of le mot juste…." As English speakers became more familiar with the term they increasingly gave it the English article "the" instead of the French le.
Origin and Etymology of mot juste
First Known Use: 1896
Learn More about mot juste
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mot juste
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up mot juste? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).