French leave


Senior Member
In English, an idiomatic phrase French leave describes the act of leaving a party without telling good bye to the informal, hasty, or secret act of leaving.
Funnily enough, such a behaviour is called English leave in Russian: уйти по-английски <literally: take English leave> , "уйти не прощаясь"

So, the question is: how would you call this in your language? Please attach a verbatim translation, if possible.
  • Joannes

    Senior Member
    Belgian Dutch
    I would say verdwijnen als een dief in de nacht 'to disappear as a thief in the night' for Dutch. But there may be a more specific idiom that I don't know.


    Hungary, Hungarian

    Hungarian: 'angolosan távozik' , which is something like:
    take English leave, leave like an Englishman, leave in an English style, etc.

    I have no idea about the origin of the phrase.
    I would say verdwijnen als een dief in de nacht 'to disappear as a thief in the night' for Dutch. But there may be a more specific idiom that I don't know.
    The same kind of Finnish idiom was the first one to pop into my mind, too: lähteä varkain, which would literally translate to something like "to leave with (the aid of) thieves".


    Senior Member
    Lithuania Czech
    In Czech: Zmizet po anglicku.
    I'm not sure, if it means exactly the same. Word-by-word: To disappear (vamose) in English manner. I thing, it is more often applied if s/o vamose without paying or similar.


    Senior Member
    I think the terms French leave and filer à l'anglaise both originated in the military to describe desertion - hence the stigma that the English and the French attach to it by pointing the fingers at each other. The fact that most European languages have the term as some variation on "English leave" is due to French influence throughout Europe.


    Senior Member
    Hi palomnik
    I've found this explanation in the web:
    Filer à l’anglaise
    – перевод : «Уйти по-английски»

    Это выражение имеет одно и то же значение на французском и на русском языке :
    Уйти незаметно, не простившись.

    Происхождение :
    Происхождение этого выражения не совсем ясно.

    The rest here.


    Senior Member

    It took me some time to find this thread so I'll revive it...

    Some other translations taken from Wiktionary:

    - German: französischen Abschied nehmen (take French leave)
    - Polish: wyjść po angielsku (take English leave)
    - Spanish: irse a la francesa (take French leave)

    Note that:
    - Slavic languages (at least Czech, Polish, Russian) seem to prefer the "English style" way of leaving;
    - there seems to be no Europe-wide trend in choosing between "English-style" vs. "French-style" leaving and some languages (Dutch, Finnish...) seem to use neither expression.
    In Greek:

    1/ «Φεύγω αλά γαλλικά» ['fevɣo a'la ɣali'ka]
    lit. "to leave alla French"

    v. «φεύγω» ['fevɣo] --> to leave, flee, be on the run < Classical v. «φεύγω» pʰeúgō --> to leave, flee, escape, be on the run (PIE *bʰeūg-, to flee; cf Lat. fugere, to flee > It. fuggire, Fr. fuir, Por. fugir, Sp. huir)

    «αλά» [a'la] --> Italian alla

    2/ «Με ελαφρά πηδηματάκια» [me ela'fra piðima'taca]
    lit. "(to leave is omitted) with gentle hops" (i.e. to leave unnoticed, without anyone knowing)


    Senior Member
    In other languages

    • Czech: zmizet po anglicku ("to leave English style")
    • French: filer à l'anglaise ("to leave English style")
    • German: französischen Abschied nehmen ("to take a French leave")
    • Italian: andarsene all'inglese ("to leave English style")
    • Polish: wyjść po angielsku ("to leave English style")
    • Portuguese: saída à francesa ("to leave French style")
    • Russian: уйти по-английски (ujti po-anglijski) ("to leave English style")
    • Spanish: despedida a la francesa ("goodbye in the French way", "French farewell")
    • Wallon: spiter a l' inglesse ("to leave English style")
    • Hungarian: angolosan távozik ("to leave English style")
    • (c) Wiki


    Senior Member
    Swedish, Finnish
    I can't think of a similar phrase in Swedish using French or English leave, my guess is "smita ut köksvägen" (slip out (through) the kitchen door) would be the closest when leaving a party without saying goodbye.

    As for taking leave from the military without permission, that's "att ta bondpermis" (to take farmer's leave).


    New Member
    Heard this phrase a lot (the Englishman variety), never wondered about its origins. While there's no common view about it, the most reasonable I've reserached was a reference to the 7 years' war where the British coined the phrase "French leave" about the deserting French, and the French naturally said, au-contraire:)
    It is indeed very common here in Russia, and it is interesting to see how although not widely known in England it seems to be so on point, as many English in forum discussions honestly can't grasp how trying not to make a fuss by leaving can be perceived by anyone as negative behavior:)
    And the phrase has even established itself in the local humor. As the Russian Jewish like to joke about themselves, the true Englishman leaves without saying goodbye, and the true Jew says goodbye but never leaves:)


    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Apparently it could also come from an 18th-century habit of leaving a party sans adieu among the French upper classes, right before the Revolution took place.

    In Catalan: anar-se'n a la francesa or marxar a la francesa.
    (The DCVB mentions a work of the beginning of the 20th century as a possible first source for it in Catalan, so the expression might have entered the language as a calque from another, possibly Spanish, in which it is already attested in a work of 1850 according to the CORDE)


    Senior Member
    In Japanese, there's no specific or matching phrase like the above. We'd just say it, monotonously and tediously, like "無断欠席する(to absent oneself with no notice)" or "途中退席する(to leave midway, it can mean apparently to French leave, depending on situation)", as for vulgarer expressions, we'd also say "途中でばっくれる(to skip or ditch midways)", "ひょろっといなくなる(to disappear like a gust of wind)", "勝手に帰る(to go home of one's accord)" and so on.


    Senior Member
    In Chinese, 不辞而别 bu ci er bie

    不=bu ( No, without)
    辞=ci (say (goodbye)
    而=er (but)
    别=bie (leave)

    no say but leave


    Senior Member
    I would say verdwijnen als een dief in de nacht 'to disappear as a thief in the night' for Dutch. But there may be a more specific idiom that I don't know.
    German has the verb sich davonstehlen.

    In modern German, stehlen means 'to steal' so the expression sounds like 'to steal oneself off'. Apparently stehlen used to have a broader meaning ('to do something secretly', 'to sneak' etc).