je ne sais quoi
Origin of je ne sais quoi
Words nearby je ne sais quoi
MORE ABOUT JE NE SAIS QUOI
What does je ne sais quoi mean?
Je ne sais quoi literally means “I don’t know what” in French.
The phrase was borrowed into English as an expression of a quality that makes something or someone attractive, distinctive, or special in some way, but is hard to put into words.
Where does je ne sais quoi come from?
The French phrase je ne sais quoi was borrowed into English as early as the 1650s to characterize some inexpressible, indefinable, or ineffable quality, such as some element that makes an engaging work of art or charismatic person special.
Often appearing in the construction (having) a certain je ne sais quoi, the saying is similar to the English expression a certain something, although the original French has a kind of je ne sais quoi all its own, don’t you think?
Je ne sais quoi continued on in English through the centuries, used widely in speech and writing as a learned expression that can lend a text or utterance a sophistication.
While it has its fanciness, je ne sais quoi isn’t exclusively highbrow. Icelandic pop singer Hera Björk wrote and performed the well-liked (though not winning) “Je Ne Sais Quoi” for the 2010 Eurovision European song contest. In 2012, the popular English duo Pet Shop Boys released “A Certain ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’,” a B-side to their hit track “Winner.”
How is je ne sais quoi used in real life?
Je ne sais quoi can be used to express the inexpressible in a way that can variously sound smart, worldly, or French-y. The “special sauce” that je ne sais quoi conveys is almost always positive or desirable in some way.
Popscycle adding that certain Je ne sais quoi to weddings since 2014 pic.twitter.com/iUDZX7rVH8
— POPSCYCLE (@popscycle2014) December 28, 2018
More examples of je ne sais quoi:
“I got a certain “je ne sais quoi” about me. Vibes be off the richter. I definitely been attracting a certain type lately & im lovin’ it 🤷🏾♀️”
—@ChoklateWasted_, December 2018
“I think that the French je ne sais quoi is more about the attitude. But more tangibly it’s about the details, whether that’s beautiful jewellery [sic], beautiful basics or just beautiful materials.”
—Adenorah (blogger) quoted by Elinor Block, Who What Wear, November 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
How to use je ne sais quoi in a sentence
Just in time for Paris Fashion Week, a new book, Paris Street Style, offers tips on how to acheive that certain je ne sais quoi.A New Guide to Parisian Style|Rebecca Benhamou|March 3, 2013|DAILY BEAST
In order to maintain that certain je ne sais quoi, a guido must always remain fresh and mint.Most Outrageous ‘Jersey Shore’ Moments|Sadie Bass|August 3, 2011|DAILY BEAST
She never finishes her soup and she wears a toweling robe with a certain je ne sais quoi.Polanski's Brilliant Comeback|Simon Schama|February 18, 2010|DAILY BEAST
But you shall be called by an English name, if you wish, though to my mind there's a je ne sais quoi about the French.The Adventures of Harry Revel|Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
Because the baggage has a pert je ne sais quoi; she reads plays, keeps a monkey, and is troubled with vapours.The Beaux-Stratagem|George Farquhar
And not one has the beginnings of the polished charm of manner, the fire of glance, the je ne sais quoi of Mrs. Hunt Maclean.The Californians|Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
In pair-oar rowing there is needed a je-ne-sais-quoi sort of mutual concession of style.Boating|W. B. Woodgate
Besides, you have a je ne sais quoi that will prevent the world from laughing, but if you continue you will have nothing.Sylvia & Michael|Compton Mackenzie
British Dictionary definitions for je ne sais quoi
Word Origin for je ne sais quoi
Cultural definitions for je ne sais quoi
That little something; a quality that eludes description: “The Mona Lisa's smile has a certain je ne sais quoi.” From French, meaning “I don't know what.”