La douce lueur du crépuscule

Yesterday I discovered that there are many ways to express the concept of soft in French, depending on the context.

Doux (douce) (/du/, /duːs/), from the Latin dulcis (soft, smooth, pleasant), is used for:
- soft (not rough) skin, hands, hair, fur, silk, towels, fabric or texture
- soft (gentle) lights, colours, curves, lines, breezes and rain;
- soft (not loud) voices, music and voices
- soft (not hard) water
- soft (easy) life

For example
- la douce lueur du crépuscule (the soft glow of the evening light)
- Sa voix se fit plus douce (Her voice grew softer)

mou (molle) (/mu/, /mɔl/), from the Latin mollis (soft), is used for:
- soft (not hard) ground, snow, butter, bread

tendre (/tɑ̃dʁ/), is used for
- soft (not hard) wood
- soft (kind) heart

douillet(te) (/dujɛ/) and moelleux(-euse) (/mwɛ.lø/) are used for:
soft (not hard) beds, cushions and pillows

Douillet is also used to mean soft, as in not physically tough.

indulgent(e) (/ɛ̃dylʒɑ̃/) is used to mean lenient / soft.

If you have a soft spot for someone you could say, ‘j’ai un faible pour qn’.

To say someone is soft in the sense that they’re emotionally sensitive, the word is sensible (/sɑ̃sibl(ə)/). For example, Ne sois pas si douillet!, Ne sois pas si sensible! = Don’t be so soft!

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This entry was posted in English, French, Language, Words and phrases.

4 Responses to La douce lueur du crépuscule

  1. Declan says:

    “Ne sois pas si douillet”. I’ve never heard someone say that, I wouldn’t have thought it correct personally! Nice word though.

  2. b_jonas says:

    Don’t you usually end blog posts like this with an open-ended question for the readers?

  3. Simon says:

    Usually I do. This time I couldn’t think of one.

  4. Mats says:

    I think you mixed up the vowel length for doux/douce (although it’s something that isn’t usually written out in dictionaries, since the distinction isn’t phonemic).