noun, plural cartes blanches [kahrts -blanch, blahnch; French kart -blahnsh]. /ˈkɑrts ˈblæntʃ, ˈblɑntʃ; French kart ˈblɑ̃ʃ/.
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Carte blanche entered the English language as a French loan word in the mid-17th century, when card games were all the rage, of course. But what does it mean now?
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Origin of carte blanche
historical usage of carte blanche
By the 18th century, the meaning had expanded to include a blank piece of paper upon which someone signed his or her name, trusting a second party to come up with the stipulations of a deal. This idea of signing a yet unwritten contract and handing over authority to the other party led us to the sense most familiar to speakers of modern-day English. Nowadays, if someone has been given carte blanche, it means that the person is free to do or say whatever he or she pleases.
Note that it is a mistake to say “a carte blanche” unless you are talking about a piquet hand or a blank, signed contract. When used in the sense of giving someone free rein, you say the person has been given “carte blanche,” and not “a carte blanche.”
On the other hand, blank check, a term with very similar meanings, is always used with “a” or some other determiner. That term underwent the same progression as carte blanche from its literal meaning to a figurative one (as in Congress gave the president a blank check of unconditional support ). Unlike carte blanche, however, the literal meaning has not fallen out of use. We may rarely play piquet today, but we still occasionally write checks.
popular references for carte blanche
— Carte Blanche: A painting by Belgian surrealist René Magritte. It depicts a horse and rider, apparently walking through a forest, though closer inspection shows the forest visible through the horse and rider. The painting is meant as a meditation on art and its relationship to reality.
— Carte Blanche: An album released by American hip-hop artist Phat Kat in the late 2000s.
— Carte Blanche: The 37th novel in the James Bond franchise, written by Jeffery Deaver.
Quotations related to carte blanche
- "I understand that you give me carte blanche to act for you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you would place no limit on the sum I may draw. "-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892)
- "[T]his deal gave the developer carte blanche to wield power in a self-interested way. "-Steve France Dusty Doctrines ABA Journal (May 2001)
- "It’s the kind of success which pretty much gives them carte blanche in terms of what they want to do next, although they’ve always done their own thing. "-Adam Lowes ‘Hornet’ Brings in the Green While True Grit Hangs in There HeyUGuys (January 18, 2011)
Words nearby carte blanche
Example sentences from the Web for carte blanche
I gave Charley carte-blanche to ask any of my Richmond acquaintances—and all for what?Alone|Marion Harland
Mrs Langley, therefore, gave her carte-blanche to eat what she pleased.The Pirate City|R.M. Ballantyne
Her dainty drawing-rooms were curiously conventional—the natural result of carte-blanche to a fashionable upholsterer.The Twelfth Hour|Ada Leverson
"I give you carte-blanche as regards expenses," said her ladyship with decision.The Argosy|Various
You have drawn on me with carte-blanche liberties and spent fortunes like a prodigal!The Law of Hemlock Mountain|Hugh Lundsford
British Dictionary definitions for carte blanche
noun plural cartes blanches (ˈkɑːts ˈblɑːntʃ, French kart blɑ̃ʃ)
Word Origin for carte blanche
Cultural definitions for carte blanche
To be given “carte blanche” is to receive the power and authority to do as one wishes: “The prime minister herself did not take any action on the refugee issue but gave her minister of the interior carte blanche to deal with the situation.” Carte blanche is French for “blank card,” meaning one that can be filled in as a person wishes.