Sésame, ouvre-toi !

Sésame, ouvre-toi !

Magical French Expression

Meaning open Sesame
Register normal
Pronunciation [say zah moovr(eu) twah]
IPA   [se zamə uvʁə twa]

Usage notes: The expression Sésame, ouvre-toi comes from Histoire d’Ali-Baba et des Quarante Voleurs, a story in Les Mille et une Nuits.* This magical phrase, originally uttered in order to open the mouth of a cave, is today used for magical or humorous effect when opening doors, boxes, etc. It generally implies that the item is difficult to open and/or that there is a treasure hidden inside.

Par exemple…

Il y a une quarantaine de clés, j’espère qu’il ne faudrait pas essayer chacune. Sésame, ouvre-toi !   There are about forty keys, I hope I don’t have to try each one. Open Sesame!
Je meurs de faim, je vais jeter un coup d’œil dans le frigo. Sésame, ouvre-toi !   I’m starving, I’m going to take a look in the fridge. Open Sesame!

By extension, un sésame (ouvre-toi) can refer to some sort of requirement (letter of reference, password, secret handshake, bribe …) without which entry is denied.

Il y a un videur à la porte, peut-être qu’il va demander un sésame.   There’s a bouncer at the door, maybe he’s going to ask for a password or bribe.
Je veux devenir membre de ce club, mais il y a un « sésame ouvre-toi » que j’ignore.   I want to become a member of this club, but there’s some unknown requirement.

Un sésame can also refer to a figurative door, such as a path to opportunities.

L’éducation est un sésame pour un bon emploi.   Education opens doors to good jobs.
Une deuxième langue est un véritable sésame pour découvrir le monde.    A second language is a real key for discovering the world.

* The original Arabic was first translated into French, then from that into English: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights.

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Sésame ouvre toi

Image: Rena Xiaxiu – K-Pop Culture Magazine  CC BY-SA 4.0

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