From A to Z, Twenty-Six Funny, Weird, Vivid French Expressions




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Literally: Waterloo, gloomy plain

Best equivalent: dreary outlook


The expression goes back to the battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18, 1815 in Belgium between the British army helped by the Prussian army against the French army led by Napoléon the First. The French army was defeated, but neither Napoléon nor anyone who fought said “Waterloo, morne plaine.”

Victor Hugo, however, wrote this poem about the battle of Waterloo.

Due to the poem and to the French defeat at Waterloo, when the French say, “Waterloo, morne plaine,” they depict a dreary outlook.

One of my numerous cousins, younger than me, told me the other day that she doesn’t use this expression and didn’t even know it. Surprised, I’m now asking my French readers.

Une de mes nombreuses cousines, sept ans plus jeune que moi, m’a dit récemment qu’elle n’utilisait pas cette expression et ne la connaissait pas. Je suis surprise, mais je veux savoir 🙂


See you tomorrow for the letter Y, part of the A to Z challenge!


  1. I’ve noticed a tenancy lately to compare things with possible gloomy outcomes by using Vietnam as a metaphor. “Don’t let this be our Vietnam” and such like that.

    I have to add, I love the way you say Waterloo. It’s kind of bland in English.

  2. I know it but use it rarely I must admit!

  3. I can see that would be a good way to say gloomy. Probably just “Waterloo” alone might do it.

  4. This phrase would depict gloomy to me. Weekends In Maine

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