Is going to the local café a favorite amusette of yours, as it is mine? For the purposes of this edition (we always need a purpose...) we're calling this restaurant a buvette. Read on in today's edition—by guest columnist "Newforest".

amusette (ah moo zet) noun, feminine

    : pastime, idle pleasure, diversion
    : a kind of fire arm

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download WAV or MP3

Le tricot est pour elle une amusette qui l'aide à se détendre.
Knitting is a pastime that helps her to relax.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse


One of the many things that charms me about the French language is its penchant for puttin' on the Ritz or, plutôt, puttin' on the ettes. Have a look at these beauties or starlettes...

amourette, causette, lichette, risette, soeurette, and the uber-original saperlipopette!

If I have un petit faible (une faiblette?) for this language (languette?), if certain words are sweetly chouette, and certain sounds sharply shadowed comme une silhouette... the cause for this might just be that little suffix ette!

But don't be fooled, Mistinguette, the suffix "ette" doesn't necessarily make une petite banque "une banquette".  Read on in the following quiz or enquête, by Newforest (you may recognize Newforest from the comments box, where our Francophone friend continues to educate us on language etiquette. Merci, Newforest!) 

Les Diminutifs  by Newforest

Are the following words "diminutifs” ? (See the answers at the end of this edition.)

1) Is “un livret” un petit livre? (a booklet)?

2) Is "une chouette" un petit chou? (a small cabbage)?

3) Is "une banquette" une petite banque (a small bank)?

4) Is "une barbichette" une petite barbe? (a small beard)?

5) Is "un porcelet" un petit porc/cochon? (a piglet)

6) Is "une baguette" une petite bague (a tiny ring)?

7) Is "une burette” un petit bureau (a small desk / or a little office)?

8) Is “une espagnolette" une petite femme espagnole? (a small size Spanish lady)?

9) Is "un têtard" une petite tête? (a small head)?

10) Is "un moucheron" une petite mouche (a baby fly)?

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Do  you love these ettes and would you like to share a few of your favorites? Click here to comment and, while your here, please help me to thank Newforest for the inspiration behind this post and for the helpful quiz.

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Selected French Vocabulary

une buvette = refreshment stand
plutôt = rather
une amourette = passing fancy
une causette = a little chat
une lichette = a tiny piece, a little taste ("a lick")
une risette = a little smile
une soeurette = a little sister
saperlipopette! = gadzooks!
un petit faible = a little weakness for, a crush
chouette! = great!
comme une silhouette = like a silhouette
Mistinguette = little missy, from actress and singer Jeanne Bourgeois a.k.a. Mistinguette


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A stroll down memory lane "Smokey & The Smokettes" (his five soeurettes :-)



Here are the answers.

1)“un livret” = booklet, small book [diminutif de “livre”]

2)"une chouette" = barn owl [PAS diminutif de “chou”!]
By the way, “un hibou” = an owl (no liaison between “un” and “i”)

3)"une banquette" = a seat
[Diminutif de “banc” (bench) - PAS diminutif de “banque” (bank)]

4)"une barbichette" = small goatee = “une petite barbiche”
“une barbiche” = goatee = “une petite barbe” → a small beard
[Hence, "barbichette" → “diminutif de "barbiche” which is “diminutif de “barbe”]

5)"un porcelet" = apiglet [diminutif de “porc”]

6)"une baguette" = 'baguette' / French stick [PAS diminutif de “bague”!]

7)"une burette” = cruet [PAS diminutif de “bureau”!]

8)“une espagnolette" = locking device for French windows [PAS diminutif de “espagnole”!]

9) "un têtard" = tadpole [PAS diminutif de tête - more of "un augmentatif", considering the size of its head ...]

10) "un moucheron" = midge [Diminutif de “mouche”]

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Sion @ paris (im)perfect

Wow, I need to brush up on my vocab! Just a stab in the dark, though - I don't think most of those words are diminutifs. I'll watch this space to see if I'm wrong! I'm going to start keeping my ears peeled for these "ettes"; I hadn't really noticed that much up til now (probably because I'm just so busy trying to get the main gist when people speak that I don't listen as much to the detail).

The 'ette' reminds me of the 'ito' in Spanish. Like brother (hermano) becomes hermanito. A dog (perro) become perrito. Fun to play with language!


Just how would you pronounce the name of that cafe?


- un petit faible (une faiblette?) mmm → une faiblesse

- BTW, "silhouette" is feminine


"Amusette" and "amourette" sont (as the song says about Michèle) -> "2 mots qui vont très bien ensemble". Why are these 2 words close to each other? because they both mean 'a fling', a 'passing fancy'.

In the North of France and in Belgium, "une amusette" also means a child who gets constantly distracted and plays all the time. If applied to an adult, une amusette is a frivolous person.

** Note about la buvette (BUV + ette)
Verb BOIRE, (to drink) - present: nous buvons, vous buvez -
- Stem "BUV" is also used in the whole imperfect tense of the verb boire.
Hence, la buvette
Hoping you are not a heavy "BUVeur"

Plenty of "diminutifs" in yesterday's comments

A few more words in “ette”? (though not necessarily "diminutifs")
What about?...
→ la moquette (fitted carpet)
→ la savonnette (small bar of soap)
→ la mouette (seagull)
→ une alouette (lark)
→ la bergeronnette (wagtail)
→ la sucette (lollipop)
→ la crevette (shrimp)
→ une omelette
→ la fossette (dimple)
→ la pâquerette (daisy)

→ the lovely expression for gossipy women (and men too) “tailler une bavette” avec quelqu'un (= to have a good chat with somebody)
→ “prendre la poudre d'escampette” (= to run away as in a panic, to scarper, to skedaddle)
→ agir “sans tambour ni trompette” (to act quietly, discretly, without getting noticed, without showing off)
→ "faire des galipettes" (I'm not a hare and I'm a bit too old for that anyway!)
→ s'en aller "à la sauvette" , which is exactly what I've got to do, right now, as we've got to go and fetch a special 'guest' at the coach station in Ringwood, a few miles from where we live. Time to go!

Bye and See you later

Geneviève radel

Pour rester dans le thème: anisette, et "être pompette"!
et aussi: fourgonnette, camionnette, chevrette, levrette, chemisette, lunette(s), aiguillette, épinglette, chaufferette, girouette, fléchette, boulette, nuisette, barrette, voiturette, bicyclette, majorette, chaînette, des œufs en meurette,conter fleurette, collerette, gambette, chaussette, chambrette, etc...
Et, pour reprendre le loup déguisé en Mère-Grand du Petit Chaperon Rouge:
"Tire la chevillette, et la bobinette cherrera!".


Jeanne - the name of the cafe would be pronounced foosh, I think. You need to take a second look though because at first glance it seems to say something completely different! Beautiful day here in the Limousin - summer has arrived at last!

Pat Cargill

Saperlipopette! Newforest, you are truly a Gift of the Godettes!! Mille mercis for your offerings today. You continue to give us struggling Francophones beaucoups good help along the way. Yes, Kristin, the "ettes" have it, very charming and one could get carried away which is not a bad idea. Nice looking down memory lane w/a photo of tous les chienettes. Do you know which one is Smokey B Dokey?

Smokey, it is another gorgeous sun-filled cloudless sky day in Roanoke. Maxine is out barking at the wind, or anything that moves in it, and would love to romp and play. There are nice big bushes to lie on your back in the shade in the heat of the day. Sweet bijous to you and all our beloved pets everywhere!


Une "omelette" ... un petit homme? ;-)

Leslie in Massachusetts

"Le tricot est pour elle une amusette qui l'aide a se detendre."
Knitting is a pastime that helps her to express herself.
Isn't 'se détendre' to relax, rather than to express yourself?

Barry doughty

"une chouette" ??? un petit chou ....A small cabbage has just turned into an OWL !!

We followed it all over Dijon to discover all of the wonderful sights.

Barry in Toronto Canada.
Beautiful day today 24C & sunny

Ginette Mazloum

Se détendre : to relax rather than express oneself.

Kathryn Winslow

I must confess I am intrigued by Newforest! Qui etes vous? At the very least, a native speaker? Perhaps a professeur francais? You are a master of the exquisite subtlety of the French language. How fortunate we are to learn from you. I always look for your posting first, and delight in votre jeux de mots.
Mille mercis!

Kristin Espinasse

Vera -- Bravo! I love omelette ;-) 

Pat, sadly, I dont know which one is Smokey!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Leslie and those who helped correct se detendre. I started out with one example, then changed it, then forgot to change the English translation rest... It went from Le jardin to la cuisine to, finally tricot being the way to express oneself until that last minute switch-a-roo to se détendre...


Good review pour moi Kristin...my favorite pastime is indeed taking a book to the local buvette and enjoying the read, the coffee and the scenery...Hope you have a lovely weekend!


Marianne Rankin

I love Newforest's posts. I always learn something. She seems to be truly bilingual, and very educated in both French and English. Someday, perhaps she can address a challenging subject for us non-Francophones, namely, la liaison. I know the basic principles, but would appreciate details on it.

There are so many "-ette" words listed, it's hard to think of more. But how about "courgette," which means "zucchini"?

bonnie poppe

I don't think any of them are diminuitives. Chouette is also an owl, I believe ....
bonnie, roquebrun

joie  carmel,ca

Off the subject....looking at the photo of les petit chiens.....have you seen any of the other puppies? Sunny, cool and breezy here today. Planting begonias, herbs, tomatoes(they never grow here, but I try every year...then steal from my sister who lives in a hot valley near here!)


Une barbichette is a little beard.
Un porcelet is a little pig
Une espagnolette can be a little spanish female but it also a kind of lock.
Un moucheron is not exactly a baby fly but it is a little insect like a fly.

gail bingenheimer

I loved Yvette Mineoux in "The Time Machine". gail

Pat Cargill

Yvette Mimieux in Time Machine on FB:


Kristin Espinasse

Hello Joie, We have not seen any of the other puppies... but think about them often!

Marianne and friends, thanks for courgette and the other ettes: keep them coming!


[Not all 'ette' words are 'diminutives']

Hello Dylo!
Bravo for "barbichette" & "porcelet". Both words are "des diminutifs".

"Un moucheron" is indeed very close to a fly and looks like a miniature fly. The word is "un diminutif de mouche". In fact, "moucherons" are 'midges'.

"Une espagnolette" is not "une petite femme espagnole". It's a 'locking device' for casement windows and "porte-fenêtres". (in England, we call "portes-fenêtres" --> 'French doors')

Bye Dylo,
You're certainly getting there!


In the middle of your text, the word "languette" (yes, un diminutif de "langue") made me laugh, because...
Your "langue" (tongue) is in your mouth,
and where is your "languette"? ... most likely on your foot! If you've got shoes with shoe laces, "la languette" is the 'tongue' under the laces!

You find the word "languette" in French recipes:
--> "couper en languettes" = cut in strips.

Jules Greer





When I lived in France, my friends laughed at me one day when I said something about their puppies--the female ones. Why wouldn't "chiottes" be the feminine of "chiots"?!


What a fun post Kristin! Why did I always think chouette was the French word for an owl?
Thanks also to Newforest!


Hi James,

Think of the word "bébé". A 'baby boy' is "un bébé" and a 'baby girl' is also "un bébé" - never une bébée.
With baby animals, you can forget masculine and feminine. Let's take cats for ex. The parents are: "le chat & la chatte". Whether a kitten is male or female, it's always "un chaton" - Oh! le mignon petit chaton... (You never say “une chatonne”).

For dogs, the parents are "le chien & la chienne". Whether a puppy is male or female, it's always "un chiot". All the puppies (males or females) are "des chiots … adorables!" You never say “une chiotte".

I am very sorry, but, the reason why the French laughed when you said "les chiottes" for their female puppies is that the word "les chiottes" (always used in the plural) is a vulgar word for "toilets". They should have told you I suppose... Anyhow, now, you know! The UK equivalent is "the bog". My dictionary tells me the US equivalent is "the shitter".
Hope you didn't mind my putting "points sur les Is & barres sur les Ts".


"Chouette" is a barn owl
-"Hibou" is an owl-
So, there you are, "chouette" is not a little cabbage,
therefore, it's not a diminutive of the word "chou".


Dear Jules,

Thanks for your kind thoughts.

There is a wonderful "ette" word for you - and you know it (yes you do!)-
No, it's not "une bicyclette" ("vélo" in common language)
Sorry, it's not "une motocyclette" (apocope "moto")

It starts with a "P".
... guessing now?
Yes, it is...
---> "une palette"
not a 'diminutive', but the colours on it might be if they are "... ish" ones (there is a list of them in the previous newsletter -see in the comments)

Now, time to switch off my laptop and close my eyes
and wishing you all the very best!


To all of you, who love Kristin's special photos of "bicyclETTES"
-all so picturesque-

here is what Einstein wrote in a letter to his son:
“Life is like a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep on moving.”

Kristin, this photo is more specially for you.
Click on the link:

"La vie est comme une bicyclette, il faut avancer pour ne pas perdre l'équilibre."

Kristin Espinasse

Newforest, thanks for points sur les Is barres sur les Ts and those synonymes for toilets :-)

...which reminds me, Ive got to tend to our living room floor tiles which Smokey mistook for both the bog and la chiotte (as well as the shitter. Oh, what a way to start the day!


Kristin, this is when you feel so pleased to have your living room covered with floor tiles (des tommETTEs peut-être?) and not with "de la moquETTE" (fitted carpet).
Ohoooh!, Smokey... you no longer are "un chiot"... and by now, you ought to know "le carrelage" is not to be used as "les chiottes".
Kristin, after such a way to start the day, take your time to sit down, click on the link just above and enjoy the photo (and quote). That will put back a smile on your face.

Kristin Espinasse

Newforest, Just back from the living room and my hands are bleached white and smelling of javel (with eucalyptus scent). Smokey is too old... then again, might it have been Braise? I think they are both suffering from the bonne franqETTE (or is that banquET?) that the neighbors had over the weekend (wherein 50 guests feasted on curry and more... The dogs assumed they were invited and came home with curried kissers (cant think of the word for dogs mouth...) Anywho, thats the SCOOP (and one thing I am becoming a pro at : scoopering)! Id rather be a pro at writing, so, with that goal in mind, Ive written a story about the fiasco as part of a daily writing exercise.


In this case, better blame both of them... and let's hope they've learned
a)"un banquET au curry chez les voisins? mmm not for greedy dogs like Braise et Smokey"
b)better stick to "les repas à la bonne franquETTE" (= informal meals), served at "Resto Domaine Rouge Bleu".

Larry R

Hi Kristin and Newforest,
I've been catching up on French Word a Day after having missed several weeks worth of good words and conversation. I love the "ette" theme and hope I'm not too late to ask about the word "musette". Is it a little music? specifically a dance with the accordian? I love the song "Les Amants de St. Jean" which opens with the fact she's gone off to dance "aux musettes" http://www.chanson-et-guitare.com/titre/piaf/saintjean.php

Thank you for the fun escape from frantic deadlines!

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