Six French phrases that describe defeat or losing

Se prendre une taule, se faire laminer, manger une claque - find out how to express defeat in the French language

A view of Macron (left), Bardella (centre) and Mélenchon (right)
Macron, Bardella and Mélenchon will be hoping that their respective parties will not "se prendre une veste" in the upcoming elections
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There will always be losers in sport, politics and business. Whether that is in the football Euros, the legislative elections or the Tour de France, someone has to lose. 

Fortunately, French has a number of evocative expressions to describe these defeats. 

Here are some interesting phrases about losing.

Se prendre une taule

J’ai pris une taule is a brutally honest phrase that means 'I took a thrashing'.

The phrase prendre une taule (it can also be spelled une tôle, which can refer to either slang for prison such as “the nick” or, more likely, a piece of sheet metal) is also used to describe sporting failures. For example, if a football team suffered a 5-0 defeat you might say “ils ont pris une taule”.

Se prendre une veste

This phrase literally means to take a jacket and it most commonly refers to a person who has lost an electoral vote. 

The veste (jacket) used in this instance had morphed from the original item of clothing, a long coat called a capote.  

Read more: Man who speaks 50 languages gives his tips on learning French

In turn, capot was a 19th century card game, and anyone with a losing hand was deemed to have been put ‘in a capot’ by his adversary.

A few clever wordplays later and the capot became a veste, which still refers to an electoral loser.

During the 2017 presidential election campaign, Jean-Luc Mélenchon promised to make a “veste électorale cousu-main” (hand-made electoral jacket) for François Fillon, in a reference to Fillon having accepted expensive suits from donors.

Se faire laminer

This expression figuratively means to continuously diminish until something completely disappears. It expresses a very strong defeat. 

To accentuate the extent of the defeat, you can say 'on s'est fait la - mi - né', leaving a pause between each syllable. 

A similar expression it se faire écraser, which means to be squashed or crushed. 

Se prendre une déculottée

This expression does not just express defeat, it has extra implied humiliation. It means to take a hiding but with your pants or culotte down. 

Indeed, a déculottée refers to a fessé (a slap on the bottom for children) but to the bare buttocks, intensifying the pain and the punishment. 

Similar expressions include se prendre une raclée or une dérouillée (to take a hiding or beating).

Manger une claque 

Literally meaning to 'eat a slap', this expression means to lose significantly, like a slap to the face. 

It is particularly common in Quebec but it is also used in France. 

Read more: 10 words used in Quebec that mean something very different in France

Se prendre une gamelle

Se gameller is an informal way of saying that you fell or tripped. Therefore, se prendre une gamelle can both mean to fall or to fail at something. A gamelle is a bowl or a mess tin, so it is not clear exactly where this expression originated from.