Bouche bée

Être bouche bée
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French Expression

Meaning open-mouthed, agape
Literally mouth open
Register normal but old-fashioned
Pronunciation [boosh bay]
IPA   [buʃ be]

Usage notes: The French expression bouche bée indicates tremendous surprise, either good or bad: the person is so astonished that s/he is standing open-mouthed and staring at the source of the surprise. Bouche bée has numerous possible translations:

  • to be agape
  • to be flabbergasted
  • to be stunned
  • to drop one’s jaw
  • to stand agape
  • to stand gaping
  • to stand open-mouthed

Bouche bée can be used on its own or with the verbs être, rester, or regarder.

Par exemple…

Bouche bée, il a regardé fixement le tableau étonnant pendant dix minutes.   He stared, gaping, at the astonishing painting for ten minutes.
J’en suis bouche bée !   I’m flabbergasted (about it)!
Elle m’a regardé bouché bée.   She stared at me in amazement.

 The word bée is the feminine past participle of the literary verb béer – to be wide open. The expression bouche bée a bit old-fashioned, so you should use it sparingly.

Synonyms

  • abasourdi – stunned
  • ahuri – stupefied
  • baba (informal) – astonished
  • béant – wide open
  • choqué – shocked
  • ébahi – astounded
  • étonné – astonished
  • sans voix – speechless
  • sidéré (informal) – staggered, dumbfounded
  • stupéfié – stupefied
  • surpris – surprised

 Related lessons

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