French Word of the Week: Allure

French Word of the Week: Allure

We already know how this word can be applied to the captivating magnetism of the female form, but also to a train or a horse? Really?

In fact, the main use of the word allure conveys a sense of motion. When referring to a horse it means it’s pace “à l’allure du petit galop de chasse” (a light hunting gallop) and can be applied to a vehicle or form of transport les trains continuent de circuler à vive allure.

As an attribute to your appearance or personality, in English the qualifier would be to be alluring but in French it is something you have not something you are, as in possessing a subtle attractiveness with a frisson of mystery and an element of class and elegance: “il avait de l’allure, de la noblesse, de la distinction, ce chic enfin, ce je ne sais quoi qui établit entre deux hommes plus de différence que les millions. G. de Maupassant, Contes et nouvelles (he was alluring, he had a nobility, distinction, that chic, that indefinable quality that establishes a greater difference between two men than any millions ever could).

This pleasing characteristic can also apply to a thing or a place:

“…dans sa maison des Champs-Élysées, qui avait déjà pris cette allure de palais que le comte, grâce à son immense fortune, donnait à ses habitations même les plus passagères.” A. Dumas père, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (…in his house in the Champs-Élysées that had already taken on that palatial atmosphere that the count, thanks to his immense fortune, gave to even his most temporary living quarters.)

Used in a negative connotation it can describe a person who takes too many liberties “Il prend de ces allures!” or someone who is up to no good “des malfaiteurs aient des allures sur la berge de la rive droite de la Seine.. » V. Hugo, Les Misérables (evildoers who are up to no good on the right bank of the Seine)

Perhaps in it’s most comprehensive sense it combines both meanings of appeal and speed into one, as it refers to finding yourself, the lifestyle that fits best with your individual nature or in other words, trouver son allure.

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Sylvia is a freelance journalist based in France, focusing on business and culture. A valued member of the France Media editorial team, Sylvia is a regular contributor to our publication.

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