French to English

What does ménage à trois mean in English?

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June 24, 2012 8:43PM

In English, the French phrase "ménage à trois" is frequently used as a equivalent for threesome. However, that would not be really understood in French, where translations for threesome as a sexual encounter are "triolisme", "amour à trois", or "trip à trois" (Quebec).

In French, "un ménage à trois" is "a love triangle", in which there are the two spouses, plus a lover in the same household. This is different of a threesome in the sense (in French at least) that one of the two is unaware of what is going on between his spouse and the lover. That situation was a frequent occurence in comedies in the late nineteenth century theatre.