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à la

In the manner or style of something or someone else. The phrase is a shortened form of the French à la mode de, meaning "in the manner of." The lead actor delivered hilarious slapstick à la The Three Stooges, but also had a grace and charm that was irresistible. He tried to dunk à la Michael Jordan and only ended up injuring himself. I'm looking to get my hair and makeup done à la Old Hollywood—maybe soft waves and a red lip?
See also: la

à la carte

Available to be purchased individually instead of bundled with other items. Most often describes items on a menu that are not part of a main dish. I wasn't very hungry, so I opted to buy a few side items à la carte instead of a full meal. Don't let the kids know that they can get dessert à la carte because then they won't eat anything for dinner! Do you have to have a membership, or can you just take a few classes à la carte?
See also: carte, la

à la mode

This French phrase literally means "in the fashion."
1. Served with ice cream. My favorite dessert is apple pie à la mode. Are you two looking to get dessert tonight? We have carrot cake, pecan pie à la mode, and several flavors of gelato. A: "You really don't want your pie à la mode?" B: "Nah, my teeth are too sensitive for ice cream at the moment."
2. Very fashionable. Big shoulder pads were à la mode in the 1980s, but most people now would not dare to wear them. The baggy jeans and crop tops of the '90s seem to be à la mode again these days. Remember, these past trends that you cringe at were à la mode at the time.
See also: la, mode


1. Struck dumb, insensible, or motionless with fear or confusion. His speech was full of such fire and anger that I was rendered all-a-mort for a few moments afterward. Our father's announcement that he was resigning from the company left us all-a-mort. We were both all-a-mort when we noticed the alligator approaching the banks of the river.
2. In a dying or half-dead state; depressed or dejected, as in one who feels half dead. Possibly a corruption of "alamort," meaning the same, or a reference to a "mort," the sound from a hunter's horn to signal the death of an animal being hunted. I'm all-a-mort these past two days; I know not if I shall live beyond the week. That four-hour hike was so exhausting. I felt all-a-mort by the time we got back to the car. I was all-a-mort for a while there, but starting therapy and seeing a psychiatrist has really helped.

avant la lettre

Before something (a word, phrase, name, or specific entity, especially that which is anachronistic) was coined or created. From the French meaning "before the letter." So-called "hipsters" have always existed avant la lettre, but it's only in the last few decades that we've attempted to create a label for them.
See also: avant, la

c'est la vie

From French, literally "that's life." Used to indicate resigned acceptance of something that one dislikes but cannot change. I know you're annoyed to have gotten another parking ticket, but c'est la vie. I had hoped to get home early enough to cook dinner, but that didn't happen, so we ordered pizza instead—c'est la vie.
See also: la, vie

cherchez la femme

A French phrase meaning "look for the woman," the idea being that when a man starts behaving strangely, it is often because he is attracted to or involved with a woman. The phrase is typically attributed to French author Alexandre Dumas. A: "Todd has started dressing better and acting much more mature lately." B: "Hmm, cherchez la femme, methinks."
See also: femme, la

crème de la crème

Of a person or a thing, the very best of a similar group or type. Literally translated from French as "cream of the cream." This car is the crème de la crème of luxury vehicles. Janet is the crème de la crème of photographers.
See also: crème, DE, la

hasta la vista

cliché See you later; goodbye. From Spanish, the phrase is sometimes used in English especially to emphasize a dramatic departure or a victory over someone. Popularized by the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. A: "OK, that sounds good! Later, Tom!" B: "Hasta la vista!" He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes, revved the engine, and shouted, "Hasta la vista, kid!" before speeding off into the sunset. "Hasta la vista, baby!" she said as she moved her queen to take my rook.
See also: la

in la-la land

In a state of unrealistic and idealized fancy, beyond the realms of possibility. Sarah seems to be lost in la-la land these days. If Tom thinks he'll be able to live off his bad poetry, he's living in la-la land!
See also: land


1. adjective Pretentiously snobbish or elitist. I'd rather not go to some la-di-da restaurant and get overpriced rabbit food. Let's just get pizza.
2. interjection A sarcastic and derisive phrase meant to mock what one perceives as pretentious or overly refined. Well, la-di-da, look at Mr. Fancy in his new suit. Wow, you were on student council? La-di-da!

la-la land

1. A state of unrealistic and idealized fancy, beyond the realms of possibility. Sarah seems to be lost in la-la land these days. If Tom thinks he'll be able to live off his bad poetry, he's living in la-la land!
2. slang A nickname for Los Angeles (L.A.), California. Sometimes capitalized. She always had dreams of moving to La-La Land and becoming a famous actress.
See also: land

plus ça change (plus c'est la même chose)

From French, meaning "the more things change, the more they remain the same." In English, the phrase is used in reference to problems or bad situations that remain the same, even when people or things involved in them are different. We move into a fancy new office, and still the servers crash all the time. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Plus ça change, eh? Even with the so-called champion of the working man in office, it's still the wealthy elite getting all the tax breaks.
See also: ca, change, la, meme, plus


A utopian paradise. A reference to the fictional Tibetan paradise described in James Hilton's 1933 novel The Lost Horizon. I'm sorry, but no place is going to be Shangri-la. We just have to be happy with what we have in life.

vive la différence

From French, literally, "long live difference," used as a celebration of diversity, as between sexes, cultures, aesthetics, etc. Embracing the aspects of a foreign culture that are at first shocking or uncomfortable is a valuable way to expand your own way of thinking about the world. Vive la différence! I owned a rundown 1997 sedan for most of my adult life. After driving a new, modern car with all the high-end specs, well, vive la différence!
See also: difference, la, vive
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

à la

Like, in the manner of, as in He hoped to break all records, à la Babe Ruth. This expression, an abbreviation of the French à la mode de (for "in the manner of"), has been used in English since the late 1500s.
See also: la

cream of the crop, the

The best or choicest of anything, as in The apples from this orchard are definitely the cream of the crop. The noun cream has been used to mean "the best" since the 16th century. The French equivalent of the present term, la crème de la crème ("the cream of the cream") was familiar in English by 1800.
See also: cream, of

la-la land

1. Los Angeles, California (often abbreviated L.A.). This expression pokes fun at the alleged eccentricities of the city's inhabitants. For example, What do you expect? Frederick has lived in la-la land for ten years and it has rubbed off on him . [Slang; c. 1980]
2. A state of being out of touch with reality, as in I don't know what's going on with Amy-she seems to be in la-la land. [Slang; c. 1980] Also see cloud-cuckoo land; never-never land.
See also: land
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

the ˌcrème de la ˈcrème

(from French, formal or humorous) the best people or things of their kind: This university takes only the crème de la crème of school leavers.Naturally, only the crème de la crème have been invited to the wedding.
See also: crème, DE, la
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

cream of the crop, the

The very best of all. Cream is, of course, the richest part of milk and rises to the top. It was transferred to mean the best of any collective entity by the seventeenth century. John Ray, for example, included “That’s the cream of the jest” in his collection of English proverbs (1678). The exact locution involving the best of the crop was no doubt adopted for its alliterative appeal. The French version, la crème de la crème, literally “the cream of the cream,” meaning the best of the best, was well known in English by 1800 or so and also is considered a cliché. It gained new impetus in Muriel Spark’s novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, first made into a play, then a motion picture (1969), in which the schoolteacher-heroine assures her students that they will, under her tutelage, become the crème de la crème.
See also: cream, of

la-la land, in

Out of touch with reality. This slangy equivalent of never-never land dates from the 1980s. The New York Times stated (Jan. 10, 1992), “Stanford is a multicultural la-la land. . . . It’s not the real world.” Capitalized, La-La Land is a jocular nickname for Los Angeles, California, a term that also dates from the 1980s.

vive la différence

Hurray for the difference (between men and women). This jocular approval of diversity dates from the mid-twentieth century, at least for use by English-speaking individuals. The New York Times had it in an article on men and women jockeys in 1969: “The male riders . . . continue to bellow ‘Vive la Différence.’” It also has been extended to differences other than gender, as in the Manchester Guardian’s seeming truism (1964), “‘Vive la différence’ Tories are recognizably Tories, and Socialists are demonstrably Socialists.”
See also: difference, la, vive
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

cherchez la femme

This French phrase that translates as “look for a woman,” originated with the elder Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Mohicans of Paris. Its meaning is that unusual male behavior can often be traced to involvement with a female. For example, countless generations of adolescent boys who never paid attention to their wardrobe or personal grooming suddenly became interested in clothing fashions. They washed their face and combed their hair without being told to, and spent hours chatting on the telephone (now a computer or handheld device) with the classic teenage boy's dreamy/dopey look on their face. Their parents would regard the phenomenon with a knowing and bemused expression as they told each other, “cherchez la femme.”
See also: femme, la
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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