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How to Say “Expensive” in French: 21 Common Words and Expressions

There are many ways to say “expensive” in French, most commonly cher, coûteux  and onéreux.  

And if you’re traveling to France or another French-speaking country, it’s good to know how to express that something is costly.

In this post, you’ll learn 7 French adjectives that mean “expensive” and how to use them, along with 14 common expressions for saying that something is pricey. 

They just might help you negotiate a better deal while shopping!

Contents


Common Ways to Say “Expensive” in French

Here are 7 common ways to say something is “expensive” in French, along with their various forms based on gender and number (singular or plural): 

1. Cher

As you might know, cher is the most common way to say “expensive.”

Other emphasized versions include trop cher (too expensive) and très cher (very expensive).

Here are its different forms and some examples:

FormAdjectiveExample
Masculine singular cher L'appartement est très cher. (The apartment is very expensive.)
Masculine plural chers Ils sont trop chers. (They're too expensive.)
Feminine singular chère La voiture est très, très chère. (The car is very, very expensive.)
Feminine plural chères Les robes sont chères dans cette boutique. (The dresses are expensive in this boutique.)

Note: Cher has two meanings. In addition to “expensive,” it can also translate to “dear,” as in, mon cher,  particularly when you write a letter and address a person as “dear.” 

2. Coûteux

This second one is also very popular. It means “costly.” Remember that it’s an adjective, not a verb. The verb “to cost” is coûter in French. 

To tone it down, you can say C’est un peu coûteux  (It’s a bit expensive.)

FormAdjectiveExample
Masculine singular coûteux Ce vol pour Bruxelles est coûteux. (This flight to Brussels is costly.)
Masculine plural coûteux Ces bijoux sont très coûteux. (These jewels are very expensive.)
Feminine singular coûteuse Cette robe de créateur est tellement coûteuse. (This designer dress is so expensive.)
Feminine plural coûteuses Les robes de haute qualité sont souvent très coûteuses. (High-quality dress is often very expensive.)

3. Onéreux

This is another synonym for “expensive” that can also be translated as “costly” or “pricey.” It’s often used in formal or written contexts.

FormAdjectiveExample
Masculine singular onéreux Ce sac de luxe est très onéreux. (This luxury bag is very expensive.)
Masculine plural onéreux Les restaurants étoilés sont souvent onéreux. (Michelin-starred restaurants are often expensive.)
Feminine singular onéreuse Cette montre en or est extrêmement onéreuse. (This gold watch is extremely expensive.)
Feminine plural onéreuses Les voitures de sport sont généralement onéreuses. (Sports cars are generally expensive.)

4. Dispendieux

Dispendieux is yet another French adjective that means “expensive” or “costly.” 

FormAdjectiveExample
Masculine singular dispendieux Ce costume est vraiment dispendieux. (This suit is really expensive.)
Masculine plural dispendieux Les nouveaux ordinateurs de l'école étaient très dispendieux. (The school's new computers were very expensive.)
Feminine singular dispendieuse Ta montre était-elle dispendieuse ? (Was your watch expensive?)
Feminine plural dispendieuses Ces fleurs étaient dispendieuses parce qu'elles étaient importées. (These flowers were expensive because they were imported.)

5. Prix élevé

Our fifth common way to express expensiveness in French is literally translated as “elevated price” but basically means “high price.”

Here’s how to use it in its singular and plural forms:

FormAdjectiveExample
Singular prix élevé Cette télévision a un prix élevé ! (This television has a high price!)

La haute qualité a son prix élevé. (High quality comes with a high price.)
Plural prix élevés Les prix élevés de l'immobilier à Paris sont bien connus. (The high prices of real estate in Paris are well-known.)

Les montres de luxe sont vendues à prix élevés. (Luxury watches are sold at high prices.)

6. Salé

Salé means “salty” in French but can be used as slang to mean “expensive.” Here are its forms and some examples:

FormAdjectiveExample
Masculine singular salé Ce tableau est un peu salé. (This painting is a bit expensive.)
Masculine plural salés Les vins rares sont souvent très salés. (Rare wines are often very expensive.)
Feminine singular salée Cette rénovation de cuisine est plus salée que ce que je pensais. (This kitchen renovation is very expensive.)
Feminine plural salées Les écoles privées de qualité sont souvent très salées. (Quality private schools are often very expensive.)

7. Hors de prix

Hors de prix literally translates to “out of price.” You can use it to express that something is way too expensive or out of your price range. It remains the same regardless of the gender or number of the noun it describes.

It’s also the title of a 2006 French rom-com starring Gad Elmaleh and Audrey Tautou. 

Les voitures de sport de luxe sont souvent hors de prix pour la plupart des gens. (Luxury sports cars are often out of reach in terms of price for most people.)

French Expressions to Say Something is Expensive 

While we’ve provided the best English equivalents for each of these French expressions, please keep in mind that nothing is literal when it comes to idioms and perfect translations don’t always exist. 

8. Ça coûte une blinde (It costs a lot)

Coûte is the French word for “cost,” and as you’ll notice, a lot of these expressions will begin with it.

This expression is difficult to translate literally because there’s no English word for blinde. It can describe anything that’s in excess, good or bad.

Ça coûte un blinde is basically the French way of saying something is “crazy expensive.” Here’s an example:

Ça coûte une blinde d’appeler à l’international ! (It’s super expensive calling international!)

9. Ça coute une fortune (It costs a fortune)

This French expression means “It costs a fortune.” It’s a common way to emphasize the high cost of something.

Ce voyage en première classe coûte une fortune. (This first-class trip costs a fortune.)

10. Ça coûte un bras (It costs an arm) 

This one should be easy because we have an English version that’s quite similar. 

Ça m’a coûté un bras literally means “It costs an arm.” Yes, our English idiom includes an arm and a leg, but still—it’s close!

Hier soir, le dîner m’a coûté un bras ! (Yesterday, dinner cost me an arm and a leg!)

11. Ça coûte une jambe (It costs a leg)

Here’s the leg that was missing from the previous expression! 

J’ai besoin d’un spécialiste, peu importe si ça coûte une jambe ! (I need a specialist, I don’t care if it costs me a leg!)

12. Ça coûte un rein (It costs a kidney)

Similar to the previous one, this phrase means “It costs a kidney” and is a fun (and dramatic) way to complain about the high price of something. 

Cette pièce de joaillerie haut de gamme coûte un rein ! (This high-end jewelry piece costs a kidney!)

13. Ça coûte les yeux de la tête (It cost the eyes from the head)

This one literally translates to “It cost the eyes from the head” but is similar to the way we say “It cost me an eye” in English. 

The French have an exact equivalent for that one too: ça coûte un œil !

Toutes ces visites m’ont coûté les yeux de la tête ! (All of these visits has cost me an eye!)

14. Ce n’est pas donné (It’s not cheap)

This phrase literally means “It’s not given,” but basically means “It’s not cheap.” A great English equivalent would be “nothing’s free.”

It’s often shortened to C’est pas donné , which makes it a bit less formal.  It can go hand in hand with one of the other expressions on this list, like this:

Oh là là, mes vacances en France m’ont coûté un œil ! (My oh my, my vacation in France has cost me an eye!)

Ce n’est pas donné mon ami ! (Nothing’s free my friend!)

15. C’est en dehors de mon budget (It’s out of my budget) 

When your friends are trying to convince you to take an expensive trip or buy something overpriced, you can respond with this phrase. 

Ce voyage en Europe c’est en dehors de mon budget. (This trip to Europe is out of my budget.)

16. Ça coûte la peau de cul (It costs the skin of the ass)

This is a good example of how the French love creativity and comedy. Ça coûte la peau de cul literally means “It costs the skin of the ass.” Apparently, to the French, the skin on one’s bum is precious, pricey and coûteux !

Just remember to save it for friends and family in casual settings. You certainly don’t want to be shouting this in the middle of a restaurant. 

Ce billet de train coûte la peau de cul ! (This train ticket costs a fortune!)

17. Ça coûte la peau des fesses (It costs the skin of the buttocks)

This one is basically the same as the aforementioned and is considered just as vulgar. Fesses means “buttocks” or “bottom,” so this phrase literally means “It costs the skins of a buttocks.” 

We don’t really have a perfect English equivalent for either of these, but it’s used to mean that something is very expensive, the same way we might say “I had to pay through the nose for it” or “It cost me an arm and a leg.” 

Regarde ces bijoux dans la vitrine, ils sont magnifiques ! (See these jewels in the display, they’re beautiful!)

Oui, mais ils coûtent la peau des fesses ! (Yes, but they cost an arm and a leg!)

18. Ça coûte bonbon (It costs candy)

Bonbon means “candy,” so Ça coûte bonbon literally translates to “It costs candy.”

The origin of this expression isn’t clear, but one theory is that it uses bonbon as a reference to genitals. So again, be careful where and to whom you say this. 

Tous ces produits ça coûte bonbon ! (All of these products cost a pretty penny!)

19. Ça coûte un pont (It costs a bridge)

This expression is used in Belgium to say that something is very expensive. Apparently, they hold bridges (des ponts) in high regard.

Un appartement comme ça, avec une vue sur la ville doit coûter un pont ! (An apartment like that, with a view of the city must cost the earth!)

20. Je ne suis pas Rothschild (I’m not a Rothschild)

This expression translates to “I’m not a Rothchild!” and refers to one of the wealthiest families in European history (think the Vanderbilts). Basically, they’re blindé de thune (filthy rich).

When someone says they’re not a Rothschild, it means they’re not rich and can’t be expected to pay for whatever extravagance is being considered. 

Achetez-vous les billets VIP pour le concert ? (Are you buying the VIP tickets for the concert?)

Je ne suis pas Rothschild ! (I’m not a Rothschild!)

21. C’est pas Versailles ici (It’s not Versailles here)

This is a very common French expression that refers to the excess of the famous Palace of Versailles, with its many rooms and undoubtedly exorbitant electricity bill. 

French parents might say this to their children if they leave the lights on or otherwise waste resources that add to the monthly bills.

Éteins la lumière quand tu sors de ta chambre. C’est pas Versailles ici ! (Turn the lights off when you leave your room. This isn’t Versailles!)

How to Say “Cheap” in French

After all the talk about expensiveness, you may now be wondering how to say the opposite. 

The first thing to know is that there’s no word in French that directly translates to “cheap.” They’ve only come up with ways to beat around the bush! Here are most of them:

  • pas cher — not expensive (most commonly used)

All of these, in essence, mean cheap. You can also use this popular French idiom that expresses cheapness: 

Cela ne mange pas de pain.

It literally translates to “It’s not eating bread.” It means that something is so cheap that it’s not eating up one’s “bread,” or their money.

For more practice saying that something is expensive in French, check out this video:

 

The next time you’re in France or another French-speaking country, you’ll have plenty of ways to comment on the price of something.

And if you think you’re being overcharged, you can (politely) surprise the locals with one of their own expressions! 

And one more thing...

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