la mer

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la mer

La mer means “the sea” in French. By extension, it can sometimes mean “the seaside” as well.

The French tend to be very precise, even in everyday language. Even so, la mer can sometimes mean “ocean” in a general sense. For example, if you say On va passer nos vacances à la mer, people would understand “by the sea/ocean/seaside”. If you’re in geography class, you’d be more precise and use the word océan instead.

As in many languages and cultures, lots of French art, literature, and music is about the sea. One of our favorites is Charles Trenet’s famous song La mer.


  • the sea
  • (in an abstract sense) seashore

Alternative forms

  • au bord de la mer (at the seaside/by the sea)

Example sentence

C’est la première fois qu’elle voit la mer.

It’s her first time seeing the sea/ocean.

Cet été, nous passerons nos vacances à la mer.

For our vacation this summer we’ll go to the sea/ocean/seaside.

Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer !/La mer est ton miroir ; tu contemples ton âme/Dans le déroulement infini de sa lame -Charles Baudelaire, L’homme et la mer

(“Free man, you will always cherish the sea!/The sea is your mirror; you contemplate your soul/In the infinite rolling of its waves”)

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