Faire son miel de quelque chose


This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Faire son miel de quelque chose.”

Literally translated as, “making one’s honey out of something,” it means profiting from a situation.

Example: “Elle enchaîne les déclarations provocantes, et évidemment, les journalistes en font leur miel.” “She makes one provoking statement after another, and of course, journalists make their honey out of it.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

(If no player appears, here’s a link to the audio file.)

The image refers to bees, naturally, which go from flower to flower to harvest nectar and/or pollen, and go on to turn part of it into honey. Even though this process plays a capital role in the plant’s reproduction — hence the major concern over CCD — in the context of this idiom the bee is seen as taking advantage of the flower’s resources for its own needs.

It is a recent expression that only appeared in the ninth edition of the official Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française, which was published between 1992 and 2000.

However, I have found several sources that credited sixteenth-century philosopher Montaigne for introducing the analogy in the first volume of his Essays, as he explains that a child will profit from the books he reads as a bee profits from the flowers it visits.

More precisely, in chapter 25, a section on the education of children, he writes, “Les abeilles pillotent de çà de là les fleurs, mais elle en font après le miel, qui est tout leur ; ce n’est plus thym, ni marjolaine : ainsi les pièces empruntées d’autrui, il les transformera et confondra pour en faire un ouvrage tout sien.”

This passage was translated by Michael Andrew Screech in the Penguin Classics edition as “Bees ransack flowers here and flowers there: but then they make their own honey, which is entirely theirs and no longer thyme or marjoram. Similarly the boy will transform his borrowings; he will confound their forms so that the end-product is entirely his.”

Photo note: Pictured above is a closeup look at a piece of honeycomb from Georgia, an intriguing edible that aroused a deluge of fabulous comments when I posted about it.

  • Liza

    I love the picture! Thank you for sharing, Clotilde.

  • One of my favorite memories is camping up in the North Georgia Mountains, Brasstown Bald, with my family. It was freezing and my mom was making pancakes on the Coleman stove when a gentleman brought over a fresh honeycomb. My mom cracked the honeycomb all over the pancakes,and I can still taste the memory.


  • I love learning new French expressions! Merci!

  • J’adore ça. Tu es vraiment très douée, Clotilde. Merci de partager avec nous ces morceaux…

  • laura

    An equivalent expression in English would be “to have a field day with something”.

    “She makes one provocative statement after another, and obviously the reporters are having a field day with it.”

    • You’re absolutely right, Laura, thanks!

  • I love these edible idioms.
    I wonder if the English ‘milking it for all it’s worth’ has a similar meaning.

  • Alice

    Do they ever say ‘make honey out of anything’? (which google insists would be ‘faire le miel de rien’ although I think that would be ‘out of nothing’). this would be a perfect description of someone I know who somehow always comes up with gold when he falls in muck.

    • I’ve never heard that version — I can’t think of an expression that would illustrate that particular temperament, but it sounds like an enviable one!

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