mot juste

noun \ mō-ˈzhᵫst \

Definition of mot juste

plural mots justes play \ same \
: the exactly right word or phrasing

mot juste was our Word of the Day on 08/19/2013. Hear the podcast!

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.

Origin and Etymology of mot juste

French


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