Faire un tabac

Faire un tabac
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Informal French Expression

Meaning to be a big hit, very successful
Literally to make a storm
Register informal
Pronunciation French sound files [feh roo(n) tah bah]
IPA   [fɛ ʁœ̃ ta ba]

Usage notes: The French expression faire un tabac evolved along a somewhat roundabout path that has nothing to do with tobacco. Tabac has another, less common meaning: battle, volley of blows. Sailors refer to a sudden, violent storm as un coup de tabac due to the similarity between the noise of battle and thunder. A similar sound is found in the theater: le tonnerre d’applaudissements, which of course is only heard during a very successful performance. Thus, faire un tabac means "to be very successful, to be a big hit" and is not limited to the theater.

Par exemple…

Sa nouvelle pièce fait un tabac !   His new play is a big hit!
Ce film a fait un tabac en Europe.   This movie was very successful in Europe.
Je suis sûr que cette chanson va faire un tabac.   I’m sure this song is going to be a big hit.

In fact, it’s not even limited to performances:

On peut jouer au Pictionary lors de la fête, ça fait toujours un tabac.   We could play Pictionary at the party, that’s always a big hit.
Ma tarte au citron a fait un tabac !   My lemon pie was a big hit!


  • avoir beaucoup de succès
  • connaître un grand succès
  • faire fureur
  • obtenir un franc succès
  • remporter un franc succès
  • casser la baraque
  • faire un carton
  • faire un malheur

Related expressions

  • Quel tabac ! – What a hit!
  • passer quelqu’un à tabac – to beat someone up
  • tabasser (informal) – to beat someone up
  • se faire tabasser* (inf) – to get beat up

 Related lessons

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Il a fait un tabac

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