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Honi soit qui mal y pense

French expressions analyzed and explained


Expression: Honi soit qui mal y pense

Pronunciation: [uh nee swa kee ma lee pa(n)s]

Meaning: shame on anyone who thinks evil of it

Literal translation: shamed be who thinks evil of it

Register: normal

Notes: Though the words are French, Honi soit qui mal y pense is an English proverb. It was first spoken by the English king Edward III in the 14th century and is the motto of his chivalric Order of the Garter.

In French, Honni soit qui mal y pense is often used ironically, to indicate hidden evil intentions; for example,

   Jean a l'air trop innocent - honni soit qui mal y pense.
   Jean looks too innocent - he must be hiding something.

Note that the first word may be spelled with one or two n's: honi is the Old French conjugation of honnir (to shame, be in contempt) and the historically correct spelling. However, it is sometimes replaced by the modern French spelling honni.

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