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je ne sais quoi

[zhuh nuh se kwa]
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noun French.
  1. an indefinable, elusive quality, especially a pleasing one: She has a certain je ne sais quoi that charms everybody.
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Origin of je ne sais quoi

literally, I don't know what
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for je ne sais quoi

Historical Examples

  • He was a "foot-in-the-grave young man," or a "Je-ne-sais-quoi young man."

    The Joyful Heart

    Robert Haven Schauffler

  • In pair-oar rowing there is needed a je-ne-sais-quoi sort of mutual concession of style.

    Boating

    W. B. Woodgate


British Dictionary definitions for je ne sais quoi

je ne sais quoi

noun
  1. an indefinable quality, esp of personality
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Word Origin

literally: I don't know what
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for je ne sais quoi

n.

"an inexpressible something," French, literally "I do not know what."

[T]hey are troubled with the je-ne-scay-quoy, that faign themselves sick out of niceness but know not where their own grief lies, or what ayls them. [Thomas Blount, "Glossographia," 1656]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

je ne sais quoi in Culture

je ne sais quoi

[(zhuh nuh say kwah)]

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.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.