What is the translation of “bulge bracket” in French?

Bulge bracket can be used either as a noun or adjective, definition and examples below:

Etymology :

The “Bulge Bracket” refers to the largest banks—the name comes from the way investment banks are listed on the “tombstone”, which is the published notification of the completion of a financial transaction. The lead bank responsible for the deal is typically listed above the others, and will be listed on the cover of the prospectus. The font size of the name of this bank will be larger than that of other banks involved in the transaction, and the font itself may “bulge” out.

  • 1
    Can you say what you think of the translations you found searching on the internet and why it doesn't suit your needs? Linguee or OECD Economics Glossary, maybe proz.com has it too.
    – None
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 6:16
  • @Laure Thanks! If there is nothing better, I'd infer there is no good translation for it :/ Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 21:18
  • 1
    An unnecessary warning I’m sure, but don’t make the mistake I did once in stupidly thinking that just because “The Battle of the Bulge/The Bulge” = “La Bataille des Ardennes/Les Ardennes” that it necessarily follows that “bulge” = “les Ardennes”!
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 21:22
  • 1
    @PapaPoule Interesting, I didn't know. The warning was necessary :-) From Wikipedia "The phrase Battle of the Bulge was coined by contemporary press to describe the way the Allied front line bulged inward on wartime news maps." Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 21:24
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    Why do think *les grandes banques d'investissement" is not a good translation? Can you explain? As far as I understand (not being versed in financial matters at such a high level), "bulge bracket banks" are investment banks (not all banks are).
    – None
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 9:36

3 Answers 3


I’ve been searching for figurative synonyms in French for “leader/s,” “one of/among the largest” and/or [member/s of the] “top tier/echelon” (some of the, imo, good and more easily understood and translatable English alternatives to “bulge bracket,” as suggested in a comment by another member) to try to find at least one that could be used idiomatically, perhaps with any domain but, for the purposes of trying to answer your good question, with that of “investment banking” in particular.”

That search has led me to an article in the finance section of LesEchos.fr (“Chase Manhattan négocie la reprise de la banque britannique Fleming” by PIERRE DE GASQUET) which contains, in the second sentence of paragraph 5, the author’s following parenthetical gloss/translation (with emphasis added) of “bulge bracket”:

Mais, même après cette acquisition, les analystes de la City restent sceptiques sur ses capacités à rivaliser avec le fameux « bulge bracket » (catégorie des poids lourds) composé de Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan ou Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

I find the two notions (bulge bracket in English and French’s “catégorie des poids lourds” [“heavy weight (class)” in English]) similar enough in both their register and in their respective figurative natures for you to consider “Les poids lourds” to capture the domain-neutral, “top-tier” part of “bulge bracket” ....

... and when combined with “du secteur bancaire”, the domain could be narrowed down to “the banking industry [in general].”

To further narrow the domain to “investment banking industry,” you could consider:
“du secteur des banques de financement et d'investissement” or BFI for short (from Cafedelabourse.com) to address @Laure ‘s good point that the notion of “investment financing” is essential here,
or just “du secteur des banques d’investissement” if you feel that including “de financement” still renders the term too general for your purposes, as the linked Wikipédia article mentions as a possibility.

(Please note that Mr. Gasquet begins the cited article by speaking of “des … fleurons de la banque d'affaires …,” where “fleuron” could be seen as meaning “top-tier” and therefore perhaps “heavy weight,” but I think “fleuron” is much too pretty of a word to use for these “bulge bracket” banks and that “poids lourds” is much more fitting.)


Just exploring some further options using the sentence you provided with Michael's career, as terminology and analogy have been covered elsewhere, trying to refactor "working for a bulge bracket investment bank":

Michael a débuté sa carrière au sein de l'un des plus grands noms du domaine des services bancaires d'investissement.
Michael a débuté sa carrière chez un des grands du monde des services bancaires d'investissement.
Michael a débuté sa carrière dans l'une des plus grandes banques d'investissement qui soit.
Michael a débuté sa carrière au sein d'une banque d'investissement de tout premier plan/de haut niveau.
Michael a débuté sa carrière avec/en travaillant pour la crème de la crème, le nec plus ultra, le summum des/en matière de banques d'investissement.

Selecting the prepositions (au sein de, chez, dans, avec etc.) and having to introduce the complement in a coherent manner proved somewhat challenging for me and I find none of these sentences really to my liking but still, it's food for thought. In terms of semantics, those businesses offer investment banking services, and this can be introduced for instance with du domaine de (in the field of) etc. Otherwise, there is a sort of connection, I would think, between grands noms and the idea of the bulging ones, as in both are striking. Usually the (le) grand nom and the (les) grands refer to people, but these firms often carry the names of founding members and some anthropomorphism works. Other examples include variations on one of the great, greatest; I further considered de premier plan similar to first rate and the high level (de haut niveau), similar. Followed by the cream of the cream instead of with the crops, the best of the best. Then the pretty well known Latin none more greater (nec plus ultra); and finally the sommet i.e. the summit at the top, the best; maybe trading the status and knowledge of the bulging names for the ostensible register Latin may provide in context.


L'expression identique n'existant pas en français, j'aurais suggéré "de premier rang", mais ceci semble avoir un autre sens spécifique en économie et ne pas être d'usage courant (merci @Laure). On peut dire aussi "les grandes banques d'investissement" ou "les grandes banques d'affaires".

  • idiome != idiom !
    – jlliagre
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 7:12
  • Ce qui n'est absolument pas ce qu'utilisent les grands de la finance. La presse économique parle en général des « grandes banques d'investissement » le point essentiel dans le bulge bracket c'est l’investissement financier. Une banque de premier rang c'est la banque centrale
    – None
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 9:46
  • @jlliagre ah oui merci
    – qoba
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 13:54
  • @Laure merci j'ignorais cette expression et ce n'est pas clair dans la question s'il s'agit d'un qualificatif réservé aux banques d'investissement, l'étymologie renvoyant peut-être plutôt au métier de la banque d'affaires.
    – qoba
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 13:57

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