Voilà: What’s the meaning of the popular French word?

Voilà is a word you’ve probably heard at least a few times before, even in languages other than English. But maybe you’re wondering what exactly voilà means, and how to use it in French.

Looking for an explanation of all things voilà?  Here it is!

What does voilà mean?

Voilà essentially means “here or there something/someone is”. By extension, it can also mean things like “There you go,” and “It’s finished”, or even “Tada!”

Fellow etymology fans might be interested to know that the word developed around the mid-16th century, derived from the command Vois-là (See there/Look there).  

Voilà is often used on its own, but it can also be paired with other words and phrases, which can, of course, make its meaning more specific.

We’ll look at some of these phrases with voilà a little further on. But first….

How do you pronounce voilà?

Here is how to pronounce voilà in French: voilà. 

How do you spell voilà? 

Voilà is spelled with an accent in French, so be sure that your spellcheck doesn’t automatically count it as correct if you’re typing in French and forget to include the accent.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only voilà misspelling you might come across. Because English speakers often pronounce it with a “w”, not a “v” sound (for reasons that aren’t exactly clear), you might see people write it like: whala, wala, whalla, wallah. You may come across vuala, as well.

But all of these are wrong. Voilà is the only correct spelling.

How do you use voilà

An overhead shot of a set table. The focus is on the courses, which include a seasoned meat with herbs, mushrooms, cauliflower, and chicken with potatoes and carrots.
Voilà, le dîner est prêt.

Voilà can be used on its own or with other words.

When it’s a stand-alone word, voilà will typically mean one of the following:

  • “There!”
  • “Here (you go)!”
  • ”I’ve done it!”
  • “It’s finished!”

Voilà can also be used with other words, but it never changes spelling and never takes an “s” at the end.

Voilà can be used with nouns that have definite or indefinite articles or possessive adjective. For instance:

Ah, voilà mon neveu ! (Oh, there’s my nephew.)

Voilà, le dîner est prêt. (Dinner is ready!)

In addition to these general rules, voilà is frequently paired with specific words. Let’s look at the most common of these pairings with voilà in the next section.

Common word pairings with voilà 

In addition to using it on its own or with nouns in general, you’ll come across (and likely use) these common word pairings and phrases with voilà.

Et voilà

“And here we go”/”And here we are”.

Ex: Tout fier, il a mis l’assiette sur la table et nous a dit: <<Et voilà, mon premier gateau.>> (Very proud, he set the plate down on the table and told us, “And here we are – my first cake.”)

Me/te/le/la/les/vous/nous voilà 

If you were wondering how to say “Here I am” or “There you are” in French, this is one of the most common options you’ll see. Note that in order to create this structure, you begin with the direct object pronoun.  

Examples:

Mais où est Jean?  – Me voilà ! 

Where’s Jean? – Here I am!

Je ne suis pas encore prête à partir – je ne trouve pas mes lunettes. Ah tiens, les voilà!

I’m not ready to go yet, I can’t find my glasses. Oh wait, here they are!

Seulement voilà

“But the thing is…”/”Only…”  

J’ai toujours préféré la solitude à la compagnie des autres. Seulement voilà: je t’aime tellement que je ne peux plus penser à vivre sans toi.

I’ve always preferred solitude to the company of others. But the thing is, I love you so much that I can’t think of living without you.

Voilà __ ans que…

“It’s been __ years that…”  

Voilà 10 ans qu’il conduit ce taxi et il ne connaît toujours pas la meilleure route pour aller a la gare. 

It’s been ten years that he’s driven that taxi and he still doesn’t know the best way to get to the train station.

Voilà tout

“That’s all.”

This phrase is used as it is in English. But I also notice a lot of kids, including my seven-year-old son, use it to finish long stories.

Aujourd’hui nous sommes allés à la piscine et Paul m’a éclaboussé et nous nous sommes bagarrés et puis on s’est pardonné et voilà tout. 

We went to the swimming pool today and Paul splashed me and we got into a fight and then we forgave each other and that’s all.

You can also use this expression to mean “Here’s/That’s everything,” for instance when unpacking groceries or helping someone with a move.

Me/Te/le/la/les/nous/vous y voilà

“Here we are.”

This is usually used to emphasize a sense of relief or feeling impressed by an arrival somewhere. Note that this expression is used with a direct object pronoun. For instance: Après 10 heures de route, nous y voilà ! (After ten hours of driving, here we are!)

You can find additional voilà expressions and word pairings on the term’s Word Reference page.  

What’s the difference between voilà and voici?

A direction sign for hiking paths shows outlines of hikers on bright yellow arrow signs going in different directions. In the background are tree leaves.

You may be familiar with voici, a word that’s similar in use and meaning to voilà. At times, the two may seem to be used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference.

Basically, it’s a bit like using “here” and “there” in English. Voilà means “there” as in “There it is!” and voici means “here”, as in “Here it is!”  

That said, sometimes voilà will be used as “here”, depending on the context.

Voilà and voici are so similar and used so interchangeably that even native French speakers and grammar websites can have trouble explaining the precise difference(s) between them. You can get a few more insights from this forum thread.  

Fortunately, this can be an advantage for non-native speakers. When in doubt, if you use voilà, you’ll probably be fine.

What does revoilà mean?

Revoilà is like adding “again” (the suffix re-, in this case) to voilà. So for instance, Me voilà ! means “Here I am!” and Me revoilà ! means “Here I am again” or “I’m back!”

When it comes to phrases, pronouns, etc, you use revoilà the same way as you would voilà. As you can see from the example above, that includes using the direct pronoun when necessary.


I hope this article has you thinking “Voilà!” when it comes to voilà! 

To celebrate, I suggest giving the song Voilà by Barbara Pravi a listen. France hasn’t been very lucky in the Eurovision Song Contest  for the past couple of, well, decades, but Pravi’s lovely, Edith Piaf-esque song nearly won the 2021 competition. The lyrics are profound  – and they can help you remember a few ways to use this helpful little word!

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.

10 thoughts on “Voilà: What’s the meaning of the popular French word?”

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  1. Hi Kathy, that’s very interesting but unfortunately not true. You can say voilà with a person’s name, and certainly with pronouns, etc. For instance: Ah, tiens, voilà Julien ! (Ah, wait, there’s Julien!) or Te voilà, toi! (There you are, you little dickens!).

    I think the best way to explain the difference between voilà and voici is the “here” and “there” explanation in our article, although, as the article points out, these words can still be used interchangeably at times, like “here” and “there” in English.

    Reply
    • Hi Zillah, I’m not sure I understand your question. Revoilà is a combination of the suffix “re” which means again (like in English) and voilà. This means when combined, the word means “here/there is___ again”.

      It is never used as a replacement for the word “encore”. You can find some examples with revoilà here: https://www.wordreference.com/fren/revoil%C3%A0

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  2. Most of your examples use an exclamation point. When voila is used in English, a typical setting is a magician who pulls the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, and it has the meaning/implication of “wow!”. But my experience in French is that it is a much more ordinary word, that simply means “here it is”. You could be referring to a sack of trash – not really a “wow” moment and no need for an exclamation point.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeffrey, some of my examples end with an exclamation point, others do not. The reason that I did use exclamation points for some is that often when using voilà, especially in spoken language, someone is expressing excitement or another strong or somewhat strong emotion at finding/seeing something someone.

      That said, of course this word is also used in a neutral, functional way. I hope that my enthusiastic tendencies have not kept people from understanding that! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Interesting article. There is a story in the US that the city in Washington named Walla Walla was based on the explorer who founded it saying, “voila, voila” in his discovery of the site.

    May or may not be true.

    Joe W.

    Reply
  4. Merci.

    Voici un exemple qui devrait être d’intérêt pour les Américains :

    “LAFAYETTE, WE ARE HERE.” These words were spoken during World War I at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette during a speech honoring his heroic service in the cause of the American Revolution. On 4 July 1917 Paris celebrated American Independence Day. A U.S. battalion marched to the Picpus Cemetery, where several speeches were made at Lafayette’s tomb.

    The historic words uttered on that occasion, “Lafayette, nous voilà” (Lafayette, we are here), have been popularly, but erroneously, attributed to General John J. Pershing. He stated that they were spoken by Colonel Charles E. Stanton, and “to him must go the credit for coining so happy and felicitous a phrase.”

    Reply
  5. I had this conversation with some French friends today, who help me with my French they said always voilà unless talking about a person voici David ou Helen,

    Reply

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