Discover the French saying "Qui vole un œuf vole un bœuf"

We are going to explain you everything you need to know about the basic French saying “Qui vole un œuf vole un bœuf”.

To be clear, it includes a complete definition of what it is and how to use it in a casual conversation with an audio example. And also the cool informations we added like dialogue example, literal meaning, slow pronunciation audio and more!

If you are interested, on this page you can find our others sayings pages and the list of all our French words guides on this page. Ready to learn? Let’s go!

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English translation

Audio pronunciation

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean exactly?


  • Qui vole → Who steals
  • Un oeuf → An egg
  • Vole → Steals
  • Un boeuf → An ox

As you probably guessed, the first meaning of this proverb is that there is no minor crime. Someone who steals something as cheap as an egg, will someday end up stealing something much more expensive, like an ox.

If the thief doesn’t face any consequences after his minor crime, he will be more confident for the next one. And will be less hesitating before acting, because his mental barriers had been lowered.

Here the theft is an image for any kind of “crime” and can typically represent infidelity, hurting, etc.

But there is another lesson here: from the victim’s point of view, there is no minor crime. An egg might seem “nothing” for the thief but might be the only sustenance that keeps the victim alive.

We could conclude that the severity of a crime is a relative notion and can vary a lot between different people and cultures.

How to use

If you know someone who committed a minor crime/theft or don’t realize that what he qualifies as “minor” could have severe consequences for others. Or if you just want to keep a wise proverb that prevents you from committing “the first theft“.

Then you can use “Qui vole un oeuf, vole un boeuf” as a friendly reminder for staying on the track.

Synonyms and similarities

  • Qui vole un oeuf vole un chameau. (“Who steals an egg steals a camel“)
  • Qui vole veau, volera vache. (“Who steals a veal, will steals an ox“)
  • Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coûte. (“Only the first step has a cost“)

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
La voix de la sagesse
The voice of wisdom
Alice:   Regarde, j’ai des nouvelles lunettes de soleil !
Look, I’ve got new sunglasses!
Jacques:   Tu les as achetées quand ?
When did you buy them?
Alice:   Je ne les ai pas achetées. Alors, elles sont jolies hein ?
I didn’t buy them. So, they are pretty, eh?
Jacques:   Oui… mais c’est quelqu’un qui te les a données ?
Yes… but did someone give them to you?
Alice:   Non, je viens… de les trouver.
No, I just… found them.
Jacques:   Tu les as volées ?!
Did you steal them?!
Alice:   Non… empruntées.
No… borrowed.
Jacques:   Alice, c’est du vol ! Et qui vole un oeuf vole un boeuf !
Alice, this is theft! And there is no little theft!
Alice:   Arrête tes bêtises ! C’est juste des lunettes de soleil !
Stop your nonsense! It’s just sunglasses!
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