: the exactly right word or phrasing
The most successful managers-like the most successful writers and politicians-can summon the mot juste easily.
"At best, thesauruses are mere rest stops in the search for the mot juste. Your destination is the dictionary." - From an article by John McPhee in the New Yorker, April 29, 2013
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."
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What 6-letter relative of "mot juste" can mean "to fix, adapt, or set right"? The answer is …