The most beautiful word in the French language

Poppy flower 2 - USE

{coquelicot} noun |

poppy (flower)
bright red (color)

Rouge comme un coquelicot.
To be as red as a beet (from shame, bashfulness, or confusion).

Etymology | Variant of old French coquerico (“cock”), from similarity to a rooster’s crest.

Pronunciation [kohk-li-koh]


Very simply, the French word coquelicot means “poppy” (the flower) or “poppy red” (the color). The term originates from French vernacular for the wild corn poppy, Papaver rhoeas, notable for its scarlet red color with orange tint.

To any French speaker, coquelicot automatically evokes the distinctive rooster’s cry – coquerico or cocorico (fantastic French onomatopoeia). This correlation is no mistake, as the expression also stems from the red color of the rooster’s crest.

Most importantly, however, coquelicot is the most beautiful word in the French language. From its charming fluidity to the way it slightly catches on your tongue right in the middle, it is simply a beguiling word. I often remember what it used to be like not to understand French – to listen, without comprehension and without prejudice, to the romantic ebbs and flows of sounds as they danced in front of me. This innocence was terrifying and enthralling and made me fall madly in love with the language. To this day, I still put coquelicot in that category. If I had no idea what it meant, I would still be mesmerized – by its perfect, meaningless absolute.

That this blazing red is as beautiful to the eye as it is to the ear is just the cherry on top.


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