top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
Explore
arrow down

Do you know this versatile French word for mileage or being stubborn?

You may hear the word ‘borne’ when buying a car in France, charging an electric vehicle or even to describe someone

When talking about cars to someone a fairly common word to use is the more slangy ‘bornes’ Pic: Song Pin / Shutterstock

Scour the internet or a local newspaper classified column for a second-hand car and your eye is inevitably drawn to the vehicle’s mileage (kilométrage in French) when assessing its appeal.

But when talking about cars to someone in the street or amongst friends, a French person might not use such a formal word – a fairly common word to use is the more slangy ‘bornes’ – as in “Combien de bornes?” (What’s the mileage?).

When offering directions, too, you would not necessarily use the word kilomètre. Instead you might say “C’est à vingt bornes d’ici” (It’s 20 kilometres from here). So borne serves as a direct translation of kilometre. But wait...

As you might expect, the word borne is a multi-meaning trickster, with plenty of its other uses being measurement related. 

For instance, a borne is most traditionally used to describe an old milestone in the road – a borne kilométrique can be spotted every kilometre. 

A borne can also refer to an electric car recharging terminal.

A borne describes the upper or lower limits in a range of values, while its usage to describe a boundary, border or limit, can be metaphorical as well as literal. For example, “dépasser les bornes” means to “go too far” and to be “sans bornes” means ‘boundless’ or ‘limitless’. The opposite, ie. limited (borné) – is used in French to describe someone who is intolerant or stubborn.

When used as a verb, borner means to restrict or limit – something the word itself appears to disregard. 

Related articles:

Thousands play Wordle-like word game inspired by old French TV show

Garabit, gabarit: Do you know what these similar French words mean?

Ça crame: French phrases to describe when the weather is too hot

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
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now