Definition of fainéant
: an irresponsible idler
fainéant was our Word of the Day on 09/27/2014. Hear the podcast!
Origin and Etymology of fainéant
French, from Middle French fait-nient, literally, does nothing, by folk etymology from faignant, from present participle of faindre, feindre to feign
First Known Use: 1619See Words from the same year
Did You Know?
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
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