Elle a été prise en flagrant délit.

Elle a été prise en flagrant délit.

ay lah ay-tay pree zah flaa-grah day-LEE. Click below to hear this.*

She was caught redhanded.

Contrary to popular opinion, en flagrant délit (in Latin, in flagrante delicto) does not refer solely to adultery. It can also include stealing a lipstick in the drugstore, or copying from someone else’s exam paper, or spray-painting my house with graffiti.

Délit has nothing to do with delight, either, even though breaking the law (or the rules) may sometimes be fun. No, délit comes from a form of that Latin word up there in the last paragraph, and means unlawful or illicit.

In fact, believe it or not, this expression is related to yesterday’s post, which you can read here. In French, un tort is simply a wrong. It’s quite another matter in American law. Click on this post to read more about that.

In French, a tort is un délit, or un délit civil if you want to be more specific. That’s the legal equivalent of a tort. Do you want another related English word to help you remember? It’s delinquent. I bet you’ll remember it now!

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:



2 responses to “Elle a été prise en flagrant délit.

  1. Reminds me of a story….Some decades ago, when we were walking the Tour du Mont-Blanc, we stayed one night at a little mountain refuge with a pleasant restaurant but little hot water. Upon arrival, I was advised by the waitress/receptionist to hurry and get a shower, if I wanted one, before the water ran out. Which I did. At supper, she asked (all in French, of course) whether I’d managed the shower. Said I, “Oui! C’etait un delit!” I had no idea why she burst out with the most charming ripple of giggles imaginable. Finally she was able to say, “Une delice!” That is how, after dinner, consulting my dictionary, I learned the difference between those two sneaky false cognates of English.

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