mot juste

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

Definition of mot juste

: the exactly right word or phrasing

Keep scrolling for more

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

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.

First Known Use of mot juste

1896, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mot juste


Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mot juste

Listen to Our Podcast about mot juste

Dictionary Entries near mot juste


motive power


mot juste



motley crew

Statistics for mot juste

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mot juste

The first known use of mot juste was in 1896

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on mot juste Encyclopedia article about mot juste

Comments on mot juste

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


showing courage and determination

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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