Meaning of “Vive la France” – French Expression
The French expression “Vive la France” is one you’ll hear at the end of almost each politician’s speech. It’s one of the typical French mottos, such as “God Bless America” or “God Save the Queen”. It’s used by politicians, and also on special France days such as elections or Bastille Day, and sadly also for national tragedies to show one’s support for France and its ideals. In this context, it translates as “long live France”.
But the expression “Vive….” is also very common to show your enthusiasm about, pretty much anything! In that manner, it translates more like “hurray for…”, and gives the idea you are excited about something.
- Vive les vacances ! Hurray for the vacations
- Vive moi ! Hurray for me – yeah me!
- Vive les mariés – hurray for the newlyweds.
- Vive l’amour – hurray for love.
Note the spelling of “vive” – it’s not “viva” as in “Viva Las Vegas” which comes from Spanish most likely.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – French Motto
The French Motto means “liberty, equality, brotherhood” and it’s mostly used in written form, in government issued documents, on coins, and of course on government buildings. However, you’ll often find this motto in the news too, and often one of the words will be changed to adapt it to a certain cause, or for a comical effect.
- “Liberté, égalité , choucroute” (sauerkraut) is a “comical” movie by Jean-Yann, a big parody of France…
La Marseillaise – French National Anthem
Composed by 1792 by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lise, “La Marseillaise” became the French national anthem (l’hymne national français – pronounce it leemn) in 1795. Most people know the first 4 lines, maybe the first paragraph, and the chorus. And that’s it. It’s VERY bloody and gory… Here is the French lyrics and English translation of the first paragraph and chorus, for more, I invite you to visit Wikipedia.
French people will sing “la Marseillaise” on special occasions such as Bastille Day, War Memorials and also sports events. People usually put their right hand on their heart when they do. To listen to it, follow this link to youtube.
The key to singing it correctly is on the first line to say “patri – i – eu ” :-)
Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Arise, children of our Nation,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
Against us tyranny’s
L’étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Do you hear, in the countryside,
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
They’re coming right into your arms
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!
Aux armes, citoyens,
To arms, citizens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Form your battalions,
Marchons, marchons !
Let’s march, let’s march!
Qu’un sang impur
Let an impure blood
Abreuve nos sillons !
Soak our fields!
More French Patriotic Expressions
We really don’t have many more. We’ll mostly use:
- “Vive la France”,
- “Vive la République”,
- “Vive la Liberté”,
- or sometimes quote “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”.
Some common French patriotic expressions are “Impossible n’est pas français” – Impossible is not French (as in not part of our language), or “en France, on n’a pas de pétrole, mais on a des idées” (in France, we don’t have oil, but we have ideas), which comes from an ad in the 70s but remained as part of our common language.
Now, I could go on the net and quote Victor Hugo “Servir la patrie est une moitié du devoir, servir l’humanité est l’autre moitié.” (“Serving the homeland is half of duty, serving humanity is the other half.”) but honestly, who drops that in a conversation? Stick with “Vive la France”.
Oh yes – another thing you’ll find is “Cocorico” – it’s the song of a rooster, one of the French symbols. So, if you see an article that starts with “Cocorico” (cock-a-doodle-doo) it means the same as “vive la France” : it’s expressing French patriotism (or something waking you up in the morning… depending on the context…!)
More French Symbols
- The national emblems of the French Fifth Republic are:
- The French tricolor flag – le drapeau tricolore (it has no other name).
- The National Anthem: “La Marseillaise”
- Marianne, the allegoric figure of the French republic : a young woman wearing a Phrygian cap, symbol of the French Revolution
- The official motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity)
- The Great Seal of France as it appears on French passports and other legal documents.
Other official symbols include:
- The National Order of the Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit
- Bastille Day, the French national Holiday celebrated on July 14
- The capital letters “RF”, standing for “République Française” (French Republic)
- The Gallic rooster and its song “Cocorico”!
Commonly used symbols include:
- Anything wearing a French beret, a baguette and a striped shirt (and often smoking a cigarette)
- Accordéon Music
- The Lily Flower, symbol of the Kings of France
- The Eiffel Tower
- The French croissant
- French food, French Champagne, French wine…
Sadly, France was the target of terrorist attacks lately. So you may have heard these 2 sentences, used as rallying cry against terrorism:
- Je Suis Charlie – used around the attacks of the Magazine Charlie Hebdo as a rallying cry for Freedom of Speech
- Fluctuat nec mergitur – which is the motto of Paris, used after the November 13th, 2015 attacks.
Voilà, I hope this helps.
You may also enjoy my article on How the French Celebrate Bastille Day, or France, f/Français(e/s) – how to say France and French?
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