English edit

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Two Frenchmen taking leave in Cologne, Germany, c. 1950

Etymology edit

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.

Pronunciation edit

  • (file)

Noun edit

French leave (uncountable)

  1. A departure taken suddenly, without announcement, and/or without permission. [from 1770s]
    to take a French leave
    • 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.
  2. (euphemistic) Synonym of AWOL: 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.

Synonyms edit

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