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Untranslatable – Tartiner


This month’s Intraduisible is “tartiner”, a rather common word in French, but that has no equivalent in English. Hint: If you’ve ever been to a French supermarket, it’s highly likely that you will have seen this word around.

In fact, “tartiner” means to spread a substance on a piece of bread or toast. You could “tartine” just about anything onto your slice: cheese, honey, butter…the breakfast possibilities are endless! The word can also be used in recipes when something needs a light coating, but its usage lies strictly in the world of food and cuisine. In the cheese aisle, you may have seen some ‘fromage à tartiner’, this refers to cheese that is softer and smoother so that it can easily be spread onto surfaces.

“Tartiner” is used both as a verb on its own but also in the context seen above; where it follows a substance and the preposition “à” to mean “spreadable”. The word comes from the noun “tartine” meaning “slice of bread”. It is not quite the same as toast, because the bread doesn’t have to be grilled, but it can be (another Intraduisible!).

Have a look at some examples:

“Je cherche du fromage à tartiner pour mes toasts”.
“I’m searching for spreadable cheese for my toast”.

“Tartiner légèrement le dessus du gâteau de ganache”.
“Lightly spread ganache on the top of the cake”.

Click HERE for more of our favourite “untranslatable” expressions!

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