Au pif

Au pif
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Familiar French Expression

Meaning at a rough guess, using guesswork; at random
Literally in the nose
Register familiar
Pronunciation French sound files [oh peef]
IPA   [o pif]̃

Usage notes: Pif is a familiar and somewhat rude word meaning “big nose,” and by extension just “nose.” Equivalents in American English and British English, respectively, are “schnoz” and “conk.”

So au pif literally means “in the nose,” which makes some sense: letting one’s nose provide guidance. But the more idiomatic equivalents of this expression are “at a rough guess” or “at random.”

Par exemple…

Il y a une dizaine de livres au pif.   There are roughly ten books, I’d say there are about ten books.
Au pif, je dirais qu’il a 25 ans.   I guess / I’d say he’s about 25.


  • à l’estime
  • à peu près
  • à vue de nez
  • au jugé
  • au pifomètre
  • approximativement
  • en gros
  • environ
  • grosso modo
  • plus ou moins

Au pif can also mean "at random, without thinking."

Par exemple…

Elle a choisi ses cours au pif.   She chose her classes at random.
Il ne faut pas voter au pif.   You shouldn’t vote without thinking.


  • à l’aveuglette
  • aléatoirement
  • au hasard
  • dans le tas
  • en vrac
  • sans réfléchir

Related expressions

  • avoir du pif – to have a funny feeling; to have flair
  • avoir quelqu’un dans le pif – to hate someone
  • faire quelque chose au pif – to do something by guesswork

 Related lessons

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Au pif - French expression

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