l'esprit de l'escalier

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Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from French esprit de l'escalier, with the definite article.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /lɛˌspɹiː də lɛˈskaljeɪ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /lɛˌspɹi də ˌlɛskəˈljeɪ/
  • Rhymes: -eɪ


l'esprit de l'escalier (uncountable)

  1. A conversational remark or rejoinder that only occurs to someone after the opportunity to make it has passed.
    • 1971, Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Folio Society, page 317:
      ‘I knew not then,’ he confessed, ‘but now I think…’ It is not necessary to follow Goad along the path taken by his esprit d'escalier to see how sheer intellectual pleasure was the driving-force behind such efforts.
    Synonyms: afterwit, (calque) staircase wit, (neologism) retrotort