Nine words and phrases from Brittany

Yec’hed mat, trugarez, Ma Doué - find out how to use these typically Breton expressions

A Brittany beach with traditional Breton blue and white beach tents
At the end of a day spent on a Brittany beach, you may be skuizh - very tired
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Bretons have a strong regional identity with 80% saying they were attached to Brittany, compared to 60% on average for other regions, in a recent (2021) survey.

It is estimated that some 200,000 people speak Breton today.

Many expressions and phrases used in the region are related to Breton. If you know Cornish you may recognise some of these phrases as the two languages are similar.

Here are nine of our favourites with their origins and the context in which they are used, almost exclusively in Brittany.

We have added the pronunciation in brackets to help you…

Yec’hed mat (‘yered mad’)

This expression means cheers or santé and is often heard at restaurants, bars and apéros.

The word is taken directly from Breton. Yec’hed means health and the ‘c’h’ sound is pronounced as a soft ‘r’. Mat, said with a ‘d’ sound at the end, means good, so the expression literally means good health.

Even if your pronunciation is not perfect on your first attempt, any Breton will appreciate your willingness to learn their culture.

Ma Doué (‘ma dwé’)

The Breton way of saying Mon Dieu, or ‘My God’. This term is very common and often punctuates a conversation.

It is used to express a variety of emotions, such as surprise and regret. To emphasise that emotion, it is often followed by benniget, which means ‘blessed’.

Sometimes, you will hear Va Doué instead, which has the same meaning.

If it is getting late, you could say Ma Doué, as-tu vu l’heure ? (My God, have you seen the time?)

Manger comme une gouelle (‘gwelle’)

If you eat many crêpes bretonnes, you may be told that you mange comme une gouelle. It means someone that has a large appetite and eats a lot.

It is taken from goéland, the word for gull, and means to eat like a gull, birds known for having a voracious appetite.

It is similar to the expression ‘eat like a horse’.

Do not use this unless you are comfortable with someone and know that they will take it well - it could offend.

Skuizh (‘skeez’)

Skuizh means tired. It is pronounced as ‘skeez’ and it is a Breton word which has transitioned to common usage - at least in Brittany.

You can combine it with a previous expression to highlight your tiredness: Ma Doué, je suis skuizh (My God, I am tired).

Trugarez (‘tru-ga-ré)

This term means thank you. It is pronounced tru with a slightly rolled r sound and a u sound like in salut, then garer as in the French word to park.

It has religious connotations, as trugarez was used to show gratitude during prayers and hymns.

It is a derivative of trugar, which means mercy, and therefore has a similar origin as merci, however it has maintained its religious connotation more.

This does not mean you have to be religious to say it but you should not employ trugarez in any situation. Use it when you really want to express your gratitude, for example if receiving a meaningful Christmas present.

Faire du reuz (‘ruzz’)

Reuz is a word that does not really have a direct translation. It means noise and commotion but it also denotes a sense of anger.

The closest equivalent in English would be buzz but with a negative connotation. It is pronounced like buzz but with a slightly rolled r sound instead of a b.

Faire is the French word for make.

Someone might say Ca va faire du reuz before saying something controversial or unpopular, knowing that it will induce some loud protests.

Être dans le lagen (‘laggen’)

Spending all day on a sunny beach can be tiring. You can then say: Je suis dans le lagen. It means you are very tired.

It can also be used when you are hungover.

A lagen in Breton means a lake but in this case it refers to a swamp. It is used for a few expressions to mean something that is not going well. For example if you have been waiting for something for a while which has still not arrived, it is dans le lagen.

It is sometimes spelt lagenn and it is an informal expression.


Envoyer is a French word meaning to send but when used by a Breton, it also means to bring or to take.

J’ai envoyé un gâteau means ‘I brought a cake’ and j’ai envoyé mon frère à la gare means ‘I took my brother to the train station’.

It is also used to mean send, so you will have to use context to figure out the intention meant by envoyer.

Kouign-amann (‘kween amann’)

Kouign-amann is not an expression but the name of a popular Breton cake that many struggle to pronounce and spell.

It was invented in Finistère on the westernmost coast and it is a symbol of Breton cuisine known throughout France.

Kouign is the Breton word for cake and amann means butter, so the term literally means butter cake.

If you eat at a Breton’s house a kouign-amann may well be served for dessert.

You can hear how to pronounce it here, although Bretons and the rest of the French pronounce it slightly differently.

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