To Lick the Shop Windows or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Literal translation was my way of life when I arrived in the States, leading to interesting conversations.

The day I told a new acquaintance that I would love to accompany her to the mall but that I would probably only lick the shop windows, she glanced at me in a puzzled and slightly worried way.


Faire du Léche Vitrine/Lécher les Vitrines

To Lick the Shop Windows

To Do Some Window-Shopping



Embed from Getty Images




The French verb Lécher means to Lick but can also carry the notions of admiration and pleasure. For example, a polished work, especially artistic, will be léché in French. So it makes sense (at least to me and the French!) that lécher the shop windows, while admiring clothes, shoes, or anything in display, is the right expression to illustrate this leisurely pleasant activity.

Hands-on experiences present some challenges and mistakes can be embarrassing, yet they remain, in my opinion, the best it not only ways to learn.

Thanks to an invitation to the mall, I learned that Americans do window-shopping while the French lick the shop windows.


I’ll meet you halfway through the alphabet, bright and early tomorrow!

A to Z Challenge



  1. It has nothing to do with shopping, but this made me think of the fact that my poor wife has to clean our family room windows every other day to get the dog’s nose prints off the glass. Good luck turning the corner on the second half.

    • We try to be a little better than the dogs when we lick the shop windows in France! But if it helps your wife I had to do the same wihen my kids were small, because they loved to sit on the sofa and look at the street, hands and nose glued to the windows. See you tomorrow if you aren’t too tired of this long month of April!

    • LOL. Once a guy threatened to flunk my pickup at its annual inspection because (he said) the dog nose prints on the windshield were a safety hazard.

  2. I love this one! What fun it would be if the literal translation caught on here in the U.S. I’m going to do my part: I can’t wait to invite my daughter-in-law to come and lick the windows with me at the mall! 🙂

  3. Haha..this is hilarious 😀

    • It’s very visual and again, I never saw this aspect when I lived in France. Sometimes we need to be away to understand lots of familar things, or at least to see them under a different angle. See you, Sherri.

  4. In contrast, window lickers, via English slang, are people of low intelligence.

  5. Love it! It would make sense when going by a candy store or bakery.

  6. I have at times been sorely tempted to lick the windows. The shop where they make their own chocolate and ice cream. Lick, lick, lick …

  7. Love this! If one thinks too hard about some idiomatic English expressions, they seem a little strange. “The bee’s knees? Really?”

    • Of course, I should have thought of you! You must know so many American idioms. Now I’m intrigued with this “Bee’s Knees.” I’m checking it out! Thank you!

      • I think “bee’s knees” is probably more British than American, though I do hear it here, often in sentences like “She thinks she’s the bee’s knees” — she thinks she’s so special. Where did it come from? Now I’m curious too.

  8. Another very descriptive one! We did a lot of this while we were in France 🙂

    • I don’t blame you! It’s a typical French passe-temps. Now that stores will be allowed to open on Sundays, it will change shopping habits. But as a kid and teen I remember doing lots of Léche Vitrines on long Sunday afternoons, dreaming of… American clothes, of course!

  9. Hi Evelyne, I’m afraid the only similar thing I’ve heard is the one Joey mentions, which is really an insult.

    • And I had no idea. Of course I would never have posted anything derogatory on purpose. It remains interesting that an expression that tells of a pleasant activity in one language can have such a different meaning in another. Thank you, anyway, Andrea.

  10. I LOVE this one! The image of it has always stuck with me since I first heard it years ago. I also don’t forget it because it is so funny, and true! When you imagine someone staring with longing in their eyes, one can imagine their tongue hanging out with want! Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @

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