Cheveux poivre et sel

Cheveux poivre et sel

Illustration by MelinArt.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Cheveux poivre et sel.”

Literally translated as, “pepper and salt hair,” it is used to describe graying hair. It is also — though less often — used to describe someone’s beard (barbe) or sideburns (favoris).

Example: “C’était un monsieur d’un certain âge, aux cheveux poivre et sel.” “It was a man of a certain age, with pepper and salt hair.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:


(If no player appears, here’s a link to the audio file.)

I find this expression quite charming, but we’ll see how I’ll feel when my hair eventually turns gray! It plays on the color contrast between black pepper and white salt to describe the fact that graying hair is, in fact, a mix of dark and light hair.

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  • sillygirl

    I love that you do these idioms and I can also hear it – although my own pronunciation is a mess.

  • Meg

    Clotilde, we have the exact same expression in English – but the word order is reversed: salt and pepper hair! Love your illustration!

  • Michelle

    you mean “salt & pepper hair” (in the translation)!

    I’ve always found it very attractive. :)

    • I do too! :) The translation is meant to be literal, so I’ve opted to leave the French order of the terms as is.

  • At least this one makes sense when translated. (without requiring a full explanation)

  • J’aime beaucoup les illustrations de Mélina.

  • I feel like I will be having them soon lol! :D

  • Is this what being a mother is giving you?! ;)

    • Knock on wood, but so far I’ve been spared. :)

  • y

    I have cinnamon and sugar hair!

    • Love this! In French, it would be cheveux canelle et sucre. :)

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