mot juste

noun
\ mō-ˈzhᵫst How to pronounce mot juste (audio) \
plural mots justes\ mō-​ˈzhᵫst How to pronounce mot juste (audio) \

Definition of mot juste

: the exactly right word or phrasing

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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.

Examples of mot juste in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web 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, "Exile in Florida," 3 Nov. 2020 The interpreter paused, choosing le mot juste before speaking. New York Times, "The Universal Language of Caring," 17 Mar. 2020 Ever since Flaubert established the tireless quest for le mot juste as the signature feature of literary work, writers have rebelled against this conception of their art. Christopher Beha, Harper's magazine, "Mallo My!," 10 Mar. 2019 Translating this book is not really about finding le mot juste because Döblin, who despised Thomas Mann’s fussy aestheticism, often seems little interested in the exercise himself. Amanda Demarco, WSJ, "‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ Review: A Low-Life for the Ages," 23 Mar. 2018 Ever since Flaubert established the tireless quest for le mot juste as the signature feature of literary work, writers have rebelled against this conception of their art. Christopher Beha, Harper's magazine, "Mallo My!," 10 Mar. 2019 Translating this book is not really about finding le mot juste because Döblin, who despised Thomas Mann’s fussy aestheticism, often seems little interested in the exercise himself. Amanda Demarco, WSJ, "‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ Review: A Low-Life for the Ages," 23 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mot juste.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of mot juste

1896, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mot juste

French

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Time Traveler for mot juste

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The first known use of mot juste was in 1896

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Cite this Entry

“Mot juste.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mot%20juste. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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