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French Idiom: “Les dents longues” (to be fiercely ambitious)

French Idiom: “Les dents longues” (to be fiercely ambitious)

The French idiom “avoir les dents longues” translates directly to “to have long teeth” and means to be fiercely ambitious, set your sights high or to not let anything get in your way. A French definition is “ambitieux” (to be ambitious).

avoir les dents longues

to be fiercely ambitious

Avoir les dents longues (to be fiercely ambitious)

According to, this expression dates back to the 14th century when “to have long teeth” simply meant “to be hungry”. Overtime, the expression came to mean “to be ambitious”, with teeth symbolizing force and hunger being a metaphor for ambition.

Here are some example sentences:

L’entrepreneur a des dents longues et il souhaite prendre le contrôle du marché des ses concurrents.

The entrepreneur is very ambitious and wishes to take over his competitors’ market.

Il faut avoir les dents longues pour réussir dans cette industrie.

You need to be very ambitious to succeed in this industry.

Here are some other French was of expressing the same concept of being very ambitious.

  • Déterminé à faire quelque chose – Lit: determined to do something
  • Résolu à faire quelque chose – Lit: resolved to do something
  • Être animé d’un esprit d’initiative – Lit: to have initiative spirit
  • Être motivé – Lit: to be motivated


Et voilà ! Now you know how to use the French idiom avoir les dents longues. Now check out some of our other fun idiom posts including avoir le cafard (to feel depressed), avoir la dalle (to be very hungry) and être soupe au lait (to get angry easily).

Avoir les dents longues

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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