Manger du lion: A French expression you may hear today

With a circus near Toulouse accused of hiding lionesses in cages, we look at French expressions related to lions

26 November 2021

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today Pic: The Connexion

A circus has been accused of hiding its lionesses while performing in Cugnaux, near Toulouse. The town had decided to stop hosting circuses with wild animals in April 2021.

Animal rights association Paris Animaux Zoopolis (PAZ) released a video on Monday (November 22) showing lionesses ‘hidden’ in a trailer, pacing back and forth and exhibiting what the organisation claims are ‘behavioural disorders’.

PAZ accuses the Rico Zavatta circus of not respecting regulation put in place in 2011, which requires wild animals to have access to outdoor cages of 60m² for at least four hours a day.

The association has alerted the Ministry of Ecology, town hall and state veterinary services.

We look at three French expressions related to lions:

Manger du lion (literally ‘to eat lion’):

When somebody has lots of energy, it is said that they have eaten lion.

The lion, with its reputation of strength and courage, represents by extension vitality and energy.

When someone is said to have eaten lion, it suggests therefore that they have consumed its qualities and exhibit an extraordinary amount of energy.

La part du lion (literally ‘the part of the lion’):

This expression refers to the biggest or best part of something.

It dates back to writer Jean de La Fontaine’s 1668 fable La Génisse, la Chèvre et la Brebis, en société avec le Lion (The Heifer, the Goat and the Sheep in Company with the Lion). In the fable, the animals plan to share a stag that had been snared but the lion claims the totality of the meal, considering himself the strongest and most deserving.

The expression was popularised, however, by writer Victor de Hugo in his 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

The expression has an English equivalent, ‘the lion’s share’. 

Coeur de lion (literally ‘the heart of a lion’):

Someone with a ‘lion’s heart’ is considered to be very brave. The lion, as the ‘King of the Jungle’, has long had the reputation of being daring and courageous.

It was also a title given to numerous medieval monarchs, including Louis VIII of France and Richard I of England.

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