All about the French quote "Oh la vache"

Get ready to learn everything you need to know about the basic idiom “Oh la vache”.

This include a detailed explanation of what it is and how to use it in a casual conversation with an audio example. And because learning a new language is a big deal, we also added useful things like dialogue example, synonyms, slow pronunciation audio and more!

In case you are interested, you can find more idioms pages like this one on this page and the complete directory of all our French words content on this page. Happy learning!

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English translation

Pronunciation example

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?


“Oh la vache !” is a familiar expression which means “Oh my god!” or “Oh damn!” in French. It literally means “Wow the cow!

It’s similar to the English expression “Holy cow!

How to use

Use it when you are very shocked/surprised by something. It can be about something positive or negative.

For example, if a friend just won the lottery, you can say to him: “Oh la vache ! Tu es super chanceux !” (Oh damn! You’re super lucky!) in a positive way.

But another example: you just broke your arm, then you can say: “Oh la vache ça fait mal !” (Oh my god that hurts!) in a negative way.


  • La vache ! → The cow!
  • Oh mon dieu ! → Oh my god!
  • Oh putain ! → Oh fuck!
  • Oh bordel ! → Oh brothel!
  • Oh merde ! → Oh shit!

Example in a story with slow audio

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Surprise matinale
Morning surprise
Emily et Philippe vivaient séparément, mais ils avaient chacun les clés de l’appartement de l’autre.
Emily and Philippe were living separately, but they had the keys to each other’s apartment.
Habituellement, ils prévenaient l’autre avant d’arriver.
Usually, they warned each other before coming.
Mais cette fois, Philippe voulait faire une surprise à Emily.
But this time, Philippe wanted to surprise Emily.
Car c’était l’anniversaire de leur relation.
Because it was the anniversary of their relationship.
Il a acheté un bouquet de fleurs, deux croissants, deux pains au chocolat et des pâtisseries.
He bought a bouquet of flowers, two croissants, two pains au chocolat and some pastries.
Il savait qu’Emily serait endormie à cette heure, alors il commença à ouvrir la porte de son appartement avec ses clés.
He knew Emily would be asleep at this time, so he began to open the door of her apartment with his keys.
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