carte blanche

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Borrowed from French carte blanche, referring to a blank or white card.



carte blanche (countable and uncountable, plural cartes blanches)

  1. Unlimited discretionary power to act; unrestricted authority.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      “[…] But since when did army officers afford the luxury of amanuenses in this simple republic ? [] Does your carte blanche run so far as that also ?”
    • 2012 May 15, Scott Tobias, “Film: Reviews: The Dictator”, in The Onion AV Club:
      Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles have indeed retreated with The Dictator, but they’ve gone back 80 years, when the Marx Brothers were given carte blanche at Paramount Pictures with a five-movie run that ended with their best movie, 1933’s Duck Soup.
    • 2001, Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, Alfred A. Knopf (2001), 15,
      Indeed, I later learned that when they had bought the place, in 1930, they had given my father's older sister Lina their checkbook, carte blanche, saying, "Do what you want, get what you want.
  2. A blank paper that is signed by some authority and given to a person to fill as he or she pleases.




carte blanche

  1. As an undifferentiated mass, without regard to distinctions; willy-nilly. (Possibly from confusion with another French phrase, en masse.)
    • 2007, Gordon J. Hilsman, Intimate Spirituality: The Catholic Way of Love and Sex, →ISBN, page 114:
      Can gay and lesbian people in justice be excluded carte blanche from the sacrament of sexual love sharing, let alone from church membership or leadership?
    • 2014, Robert J. Lake, A Social History of Tennis in Britain, →ISBN:
      The mass production of tennis equipment made it more affordable, such that blue-collar workers were no longer excluded carte blanche as before the war (Birley 1995b).



  • IPA(key): /kaʁ.t(ə) blɑ̃ʃ/


carte blanche f (plural cartes blanches)

  1. carte blanche (unlimited discretionary power to act; unrestricted authority)
    Synonym: champ libre
    avoir carte blancheto have carte blanche
    donner carte blancheto give carte blanche
  2. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see carte,‎ blanche.


Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from French carte blanche, attested since 1666.


carte blanche c

  1. carte blanche (unlimited discretionary power to act; unrestricted authority)
    • 2001, August Strindberg, edited by Torbjörn Nilsson, Samlade Verk 11. Tidiga 80-talsdramer[1]:
      Nu, den 13 september 1883, ger Strindberg regissören carte blanche att »ändra och bråka med pjesen» - han har, förklarar han, »förlorat allt intresse för teatern».
      Now, on September 13, 1883, Strindberg gives the director carte blanche to "change and quarrel with the play" - he has, he explains, "lost all interest in theater."
  2. (dated) blank check
    Synonym: blankocheck
    • 1859, anonymous author, Illustreradt tidsfördrif[2], page 45:
      [...] hör hit, hm, garsong! mera champagne! carte blanche!
      [...] listen here, hm, garsong! more champagne! blank check!

See also[edit]