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From Middle French fauve, from Old French falve, from Late Latin falvus, a borrowing from Frankish *falu, *falw- (compare Dutch vaal and English fallow), from Proto-Germanic *falwaz (pale, grey). The adjectival sense of "savage, fierce" comes from the noun sense "wild animal," which is in turn a shortening of bête au pelage fauve (“animal with tawny fur”).


  • IPA(key): /fov/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ov
  • Homophone: fauves


fauve (plural fauves)

  1. tawny
  2. (rare, archaic) savage, fierce (having the ferocity of a wild animal) [19th c.]
  3. (rare, by extension) dangerous, wild [from mid-19th c.]
  4. (arts) fauvist [from early 20th c.]


fauve m (plural fauves)

  1. (dated) tawny-coloured animal [from late 16th c.]
  2. (by extension) a big cat, such as a lion or lynx
    • 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince[1], Chapter I:
      Lorsque j’avais six ans j’ai vu, une fois, une magnifique image, dans un livre sur la forêt vierge qui s’appelait Histoires vécues. Ça représentait un serpent boa qui avalait un fauve.
      When I was six years old, I once saw a magnificent picture, in a book on the virgin forest called True Stories. It was of a boa that was swallowing a large cat.
  3. (by extension) beast, wild animal, especially fierce, aggressive, or predatory
  4. (figuratively) a violent or aggressive man or woman
  5. a brownish orange color, tawny [from mid-19th c.]
  6. (polytechnic jargon, obsolete) examiner

Further reading[edit]

Old French[edit]


fauve m (oblique and nominative feminine singular fauve)

  1. brownish