Cette arme relève d’un projet top secret lancé par le président actuel. Monique n’en sait pas un traître mot.

Usually, the expression « pas un traître mot » is used with the meaning of "not even a single word", as in "You haven’t heard a single word I said!".

In this particular sentence, however, the expression seems to mean more like "she doesn’t have the slightest idea about it" or "she has no idea of its existence".

  • The en refers to the preceding statement: Elle ne sait pas un traître mot du fait que cette arme relève d'un projet top secret lancé par le président actuel. NB. It is more common to place pas before the infinitive form.
    – GAM PUB
    Dec 29, 2016 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


You are right, in this context, "pas un traître mot" means that she doesn't have the slightest idea about it. However, litteraly speaking, I would translate it by "she hasn't heard a single word about it", ie she is not aware.

This expression is relatively uncommon, only seen in litterature, and less used with the meaning "not a single word".

  • 2
    Hi. By this expression being uncommon, do you refer specifically to an instance where it is used with "savoir", or every instance where « pas un traître mot » is used, coupled with any verb? Merci. Dec 27, 2016 at 18:14
  • I refer to the expression in general, it's a very formal register. I don't think there's a lot of use of "un traître mot" without verbs like "savoir", "comprendre", or, more rarely, penser.
    – Anthsyt
    Dec 27, 2016 at 20:32
  • 1
    It's definitively too formal. I would use "pas le moindre mot" or "pas un seul mot".
    – Anthsyt
    Dec 28, 2016 at 13:08

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