top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon

‘Boire la tasse’ - why this French phrase means to admit defeat

It is hard to declare defeat or failure - but at least you will say it in perfect French

This phrase is perfect to express being defeated by a work project and unable to finish it Pic: Cast Of Thousands

To 'boire la tasse' translates as to go under, sink, fail or be defeated by something.

Word-for-word, boire la tasse means to 'drink the cupful'.

This expression first appeared in the Dictionary of the Académie française in 1798, with a definition explaining “one says ‘to drink from the big cup’ to mean drowning in the sea’.

Read more: Six French phrases that describe defeat or losing

In fact, when the word tasse – cup – arrived in France from Persia in the 14th century it was originally tasse grande referring to a vase-sized vessel, much larger than the mugs for hot drinks we think of today.

As such, drinking such a large cupful of water was seen as a sure way to sink to the bottom.

Today the expression boire la tasse can mean simply swallowing a lot of water accidentally while swimming.

But, it can also mean to fail, lose badly, lose a lot of money or go under.


Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Visa and residency cards for France*
Featured Help Guide
- Visas and residency cards (cartes de séjour) for France help guide - Understand when visas and residency cards are required to move to France or come for an extended stay - Applies to Britons (post-Brexit) and to all other non-EU/non-EEA/Swiss nationalities - Useful to anyone considering a move to France, whether for work or otherwise, or wanting to spend more than three months at their French second home
Get news, views and information from France