brown / chestnut (eyes, hair)

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by hanbaked, Jan 3, 2007.

  1. hanbaked Senior Member

    English (UK)

    Can someone let me know when you would use one of these words rather than the other? I think I have been told that marron is for hair and eyes and brun for objects. Or is it the other way round? Or is there no distinction?

    Merci bien
  2. Overton Senior Member

    It is the other way round: "brun" is for hair and "marron" for eyes and objects
  3. Agnès E.

    Agnès E. Senior Member

    France, French
    Roughly speaking, and as a general trend:

    - on a les yeux marron
    - on a les cheveux bruns ou châtain (brun est plus foncé que châtain)
    - un objet est plus généralement marron (ou brun pour la décoration, ça fait plus chic).

  4. niko Senior Member

    French (France)

    Well, those words are synonyms... but what you were told is not true.
    Some examples :
    - Il a les yeux marrons but not "brun", which would sounds odd
    - Il a les cheveux bruns but not "marron", which again sounds odd
    - Sa voiture est marron but not "brune", no one would ever speak of "une voiture brune"
    Experience and instinct are speaking, though, can't think of a special rule !
  5. dreambeliever New Member

    English - Australia
    Hi everyone,
    When is brown "marron" and when is it "brun"? I've heard that if it's the colour of fur then it should be "marron", but the children's storybooks "Petit Ours Brun" suggest fur can be "brun". What if I want to refer to the colour of dirty water? soil? a paint colour?
  6. atcheque Senior Member

    français (France)
  7. dreambeliever New Member

    English - Australia
    Thanks atcheque,
    That helps quite a lot although "wordreference" also gives an example of hair being marron foncé. Would châtain be lighter than brun or would it be somewhere between brun and marron? I've heard of châtain clair...Would châtain foncé be a colour for hair?
  8. Jeanbar Senior Member

    Brun et brown/braun sont apparentés: c'est une couleur située entre le roux et le noir mais tirant sur le sombre. L'ours est brun (dans le roman de Renart, "Brun" est le nom de l'ours). Quand on parle de quelqu'un comme d'un "grand brun", on fait référence à sa couleur de cheveux (par opposition à blond) mais la nuance peut être très large. La couleur brune peut aussi convenir pour du sang séché, des feuilles mortes, de la terre.

    Marron et châtain sont apparentés (châtain vient de châtaigne - les couleurs des fruits sont quasiment identiques). Châtain qualifie presque exclusivement la couleur des cheveux avec des nuances allant de clair à foncé (donc oui pour "châtain foncé"). Je dirais que châtain est plus clair que brun: une nuance de rouge doit être perceptible. Marron est la couleur des vêtements, des yeux, par exemple mais là encore, rien d'absolu (on appelait les membres de l'organisation paramilitaire du parti nazi (SA) les "chemises brunes").
  9. Anajo

    Anajo Member

    Las Cruces, New Mexico
    English, U.S.A.
  10. CarlosRapido

    CarlosRapido Senior Member

    Québec - Canada
    français - English (Can)
    Oui, au Canada du moins, on peut très bien avoir les yeux bruns, mais jamais les cheveux marrons;
    cop/col de sources multiples
  11. franglaiise Senior Member

    Hi, does that mean that in Canada "brun" is a more general equivalent of "brown" than "marron". I mean, in France the most general way for me of saying "brown" has always been "marron" while "brun" has seemed to be reserved for specific use. Is it the other way round in Canada?
    Is it like "violet" and "mauve"? I have a feeling that in France, "violet" is the general term and "mauve" is more specific while in Canada "mauve" is used as the general term for "purple". Is there a similar difference between France and Canada for "brown"?
  12. CarlosRapido

    CarlosRapido Senior Member

    Québec - Canada
    français - English (Can)
    Yes, you got that exactly right. I've been of the French-Canadian persuasion for more than 5 decaded and I've never heard the word marron spoken by anyone - brun is the standard. As for violet and mauve, it seems to me they are pretty much synonymous and used interchangeably in Canada.
  13. franglaiise Senior Member

    Thanks a lot, Carlos!
  14. franglaiise Senior Member

    I've always used "marron" to say "brown" in French. But what if an object is the colour of a chestnut? How do I specify the colour? How do I let people know that I'm not talking about brown in general but a certain shade of brown with slightly more red in it?
  15. Chris' Spokesperson Senior Member

    English - Ireland
  16. franglaiise Senior Member

    Thanks, Chris, but I'm a bit confused since Jeanbar says that "châtain qualifie presque exclusivement la couleur des cheveux". Is it possible to also use "châtain" for objects such as trousers, wardrobes etc.?
  17. Chris' Spokesperson Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    For a wardrobe it would certainly be possible to say it - you would be saying that the wardrobe is the colour "du bois du châtaignier". And if you do a Google search for "pantalon châtain" you'll see many descriptions using that vocabulary, so I think you can safely allow yourself to use it.
  18. Lly4n4 Senior Member

    Paris (ex-Grand Ouest)
    Français (France)
    Noisette :)

    Sinon, pour certaines appellations plus "poétiques" (peinture) :

    "Pantalon châtain" me semble étrange (disclaimer : Français de France), j'utiliserai "pantalon caramel/noisette/tabac/châtaigne".
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  19. sofff

    sofff Senior Member

    Sory but I disagree.
    Chatain is mostly never use for something else than hair (exceptions can exist as always in French...)

    To sum up,
    Hair can be "brun", "brun foncé", "chatain", "chatain clair" or "chatain foncé"
    We almost never say "brun clair" because it means "chatain"
    Fur can be "brun", "brun foncé"
    Eyes can be "brun" or "Noisette" for light brown but never "chatain"
    Non biologic staff like clothing or objects is "marron"
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
  20. Chris' Spokesperson Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    Ah, oui - je confondais avec ça, chose que j'ai souvent entendue... mais, effectivement, ce n'est pas le même mot ! :eek:
  21. franglaiise Senior Member

    Thank you to all of you! So probably the closest to chestnut (for objects) would be châtaigne, is that right?
  22. Andrious Senior Member

    Just to comment that marron (like some other colours) doesn't change in plural. So, the correct is "Il a les yeux marron".
  23. ain'ttranslationfun? Senior Member

    US English
    I agree that "noisette" for eyes is "hazel", and for hair "chestnut" is "châtaigne". ("un café noisette" is coffee with just a drop of milk/cream.)

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