fainéant

noun
fai·​né·​ant | \ fā-nā-ˈäⁿ How to pronounce fainéant (audio) \
plural fainéants\ fā-​nā-​ˈäⁿ(z) How to pronounce fainéants (audio) \

Definition of fainéant

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: an irresponsible idler

fainéant

adjective
fai·​né·​ant | \ fā-nā-ˈäⁿ How to pronounce fainéant (audio) \
variants: or faineant \ ˈfā-​nē-​ənt How to pronounce faineant (audio) \

Definition of fainéant (Entry 2 of 2)

: idle and ineffectual : indolent

Did You Know?

Adjective

You've probably guessed that fainéant was borrowed from French; it derives from fait-nient, which literally means "does nothing," and ultimately traces back to the verb faindre, or feindre, meaning "to feign." (The English word feign is also descended from this verb, as are faint and feint.) Fainéant first appeared in print in the early 17th century as a noun meaning "an irresponsible idler," and by 1854 it was also being used as an adjective. As its foreignness suggests, fainéant tends to be used when the context calls for a fancier or more elegant word than inactive or sluggish.

First Known Use of fainéant

Noun

1619, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

1854, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for fainéant

Noun

borrowed from French, going back to Middle French fai-neant, from fait "does, makes" (third person singular of faire "to make, do") + neant "nothing, nil" (probably going back to Vulgar Latin *ne … gentem "no people, no one"), alteration by folk etymology of faignant, feignant, present participle of feindre "to dissemble, pretend to be, evade, shirk" — more at feign

Adjective

borrowed from French — more at fainéant entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fainéant

Time Traveler for fainéant

Time Traveler

The first known use of fainéant was in 1619

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about fainéant

Statistics for fainéant

Cite this Entry

“Fainéant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fain%C3%A9ant. Accessed 5 Dec. 2020.

Comments on fainéant

What made you want to look up fainéant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!