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bec et ongles

The French expression “bec et ongles” translates literally to “beak and nails”. English meanings include:

  • tooth and nail

In addition, one can say “se défendre bec et ongles” (to defend oneself tooth and nail) and “se battre bec et ongles” (to fight tooth and nails). The expression is based on the metaphor of a bird defending itself with everything at its dispositions its beak and its talons.

Here’s are some example sentence:

  • Je me suis battu bec et ongles pour atteindre mon objectif. I fought tooth and nail to reach my goal.
  • Le pays s’est défendu bec et ongles contre son ennemi. The country defended itself tooth and nail against its enemy.

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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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