According to the Oxford English Dictionary, from the 18th-century custom among the French upper class of leaving receptions etc. without formally announcing each departure to the host or hostess. Compare Spanish irse a la francesa and Portuguese sair à francesa ("go in the French manner") but also the otherwise ubiquitous attribution of this behavior to the English as with French filer à l’anglaise ("leave in the English manner"), Italian filarsela all'inglese, Polish wyjść po angielsku, etc.
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- A departure taken suddenly, without announcement, and/or without permission. [from 1770s]
- 1771, Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker:
- He stole away an Irishman's bride, and took a French leave of me and his master.
- (euphemistic) Synonym of : absence from military service without permission, especially temporary shirking of duty subject to punishment.
- 2010, William Marvel, The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln's War, page 10:
- he may have felt a particular need to mitigate the responsibility of those who shirked their duty, for as he wrote that letter he had just returned from French leave himself.
Derived terms edit