I have heard the following dialogue in the TV series Marseille:

  • Voter: Qu'est-ce qui me prouve qu'il me donnera ce que je demande?
  • Candidate: On se reverra après les élections. En revanche, si le quartier ne vote pas pour moi, ce sera ceinture.

Context: a candidate running for mayor talks to a voter.

What does "être ceinture" mean in this context? I have not found any meaning which makes sense in Word Reference, Larousse or TLFi dictionaries.

  • General advice, as I have seen you watch recent French TV shows to expand your vocabulary (great idea by the way... and I then recommend also "Baron noir"): if you are after familiar language bits, or "real-life" recent usage: forget about the TLFi (not updated since the 1970s)... Larousse is good, but covers mainly "standard" French and I feel is always lagging behind actual usage. I recommend to use the Wiktionary website, it also has plenty of references to "argot", to the French used in the "banlieue", etc.
    – Greg
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 6:10

1 Answer 1


You can see it as a metaphor: when you are deprived of food, your stomach is supposedly empty, and then you will tighten your belt to make sure your pants will still fit. This is what the allusion to a ceinture means: to have to do without some resources.

The standard phrase is se serrer la ceinture, but you can also use faire ceinture or just ceinture, as an interjection.

Les budgets ont été réduits, il va falloir se serrer la ceinture.

J'ai plus de sous pour les vacances, on va devoir faire ceinture.

je t'ai dit que je n'ai plus de sous ! Ceinture !

So in your example, it simply means that if the neighborhood does not vote for the mayor, they should be prepared to have less of what was promised, or even none of it (money probably ?).

On a humorous tone, note that ceinture can also mean you are deprived of ... sex:

Je me suis engueulé avec ma fiancée, alors ce soir pour moi c'est clair: ceinture ! (= no sex for me !)

See the entry in Wiktionary, in particular for the interjection.

  • Thanks for the answer! I knew "serrer la ceinture", but I didn't know that "ceinture" could be used with that meaning by itself. Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 13:31

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