mot juste


plural mots justes mō-ˈzhᵫst How to pronounce mot juste (audio)
: the exactly right word or phrasing

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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 (the 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.

Examples of mot juste in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Is that the mot juste? Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 4 Oct. 2021 Epic is the mot juste for a complex that is emblematic of changes seen throughout Deep Ellum, which has been subjected to such a paroxysm of luxury development that the advocacy group Preservation Dallas put it on this year’s Most Endangered Historic Places list. Mark Lamster, Dallas News, 5 Nov. 2020 In my country, whose weather blows lyric one way and satire another, the English language is always precise, every mot juste, and anyone can visit who wants to. Ange Mlinko, The New York Review of Books, 19 Nov. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mot juste.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



First Known Use

1896, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mot juste was in 1896


Dictionary Entries Near mot juste

Cite this Entry

“Mot juste.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

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