Word of the Week – ‘Rat de bibliothèque’

Word of the Week:
It’s all things book and literature-related this week, as we look at one of my favourite words, ‘rat de bibliothèque’.

Mr Bojangles front cover

How to pronounce it:

‘Ra duh bib-lee-oh-tek’.

What it means in English:

Its literal translation into English is ‘library rat’, but a more common translation would be ‘bookworm’.

Where does it come from?

Although no source gives details about the first time the expression was used, the author Marcel Proust (yes, the one with the madeleine) used the term in 1922, in his book La Prisonnière.

It was also used even before then, in 1850, in the French translation of the title of German artist Carl Spitzweg’s painting Der Bücherwurm.

How to use it in a sentence:

‘Il passe tout son temps à lire, c’est un vrai rat de bibliothèque.’

English translation:

‘He spends all his time reading, he’s a real bookworm.’

Similar words:

Un croqueur de livres = A book lover (literally, a ‘book cruncher’).

Un accro à la lecture = A reading addict.

Une souris de bibliothèque = The feminine version of ‘rat de bibliothèque’, literally meaning ‘library mouse’.

A sneak peek at the bookshelf of a bookworm-in-training

Enjoyed reading this post? 

Why not have a look at my previous Word of the Week posts here and here

How about you? What are your favourite French expressions? And continuing with the theme of today’s post, what are your favourite French books? 🙂


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