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


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?


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


1619, in the meaning defined above


1854, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for fainéant


French, from Middle French fait-nient, literally, does nothing, by folk etymology from faignant, from present participle of faindre, feindre to feign

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The first known use of fainéant was in 1619

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Cite this Entry

“Fainéant.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faineant. Accessed 9 December 2019.

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