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‘Prendre ses jambes à son cou’: run away if you hear this French term

This French phrase means to flee or take to one’s heels - but where did it come from?

Word-for-word, prendre ses jambes à son cou means ‘to take the legs to one’s neck’ Pic: Koldunov

Prendre ses jambes à son cou translates as running away quickly.

Read more: Why are Tour de France cyclists called ‘runners’ in French?

Word-for-word, prendre ses jambes à son cou means ‘to take the legs to one’s neck’. 

This expression first emerged in 1618 as prendre ses jambes sur son col – to take the legs on one’s neck or collar – meaning to decide to go on a trip.

This meaning came from the idea that you would need to pack extra belongings to take with you if you went away.

At that time belongings would be carried in a cross-body bag with the weight resting on the side of the neck.

The modern usage, however, has a more pressing meaning. 

If someone has to prendre les jambes à son cou they must flee, make a hasty escape or even take to their heels and run away.

It is a very visual phrase and conjures an image of someone running with their legs pumping high to get away as quickly as possible.

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