The term (101) was first introduced by the University of Buffalo in 1929. It was used as a course catalog, the first known usage of the term by Oxford English Dictionary. Based on this usage, the term "101" has been extended to mean an introductory level of learning or a collection of introductory materials to a topic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/101_(topic)

See also the thread: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/14265/what-does-something-101-mean.

I encountered this French article: Électronique d'Imagerie 101 : Compréhension des Capteurs de Caméra pour les Applications de Vision Industrielle. Is this usage of 101 colloquial in French?

Furthermore 101 has also the meaning of "showing the most basic knowledge about a subject". [See: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/fr/dictionnaire/anglais/101]


You should know how to boil an egg - that's cooking 101.

Can we use 101 in this way (i.e. as an adjective) in French? If not, what are some colloquial ways to convey a similar idea?

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    For your information, a basic course in something is a 101 course in something. That is not a colloquial expression. Also, the second use is not really colloquial; it's just idiomatic and means the basics of something.
    – Lambie
    Feb 21, 2022 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


The term 101 is not used at all in France with this or any specific meaning.

The cited title is just a (too) direct translation of an English one:
Imaging Electronics 101: Understanding Camera Sensors for Machine Vision Applications.

The closest expression would be B.A.-BA, or béaba already mentioned here:


b a ba, /beaba/ or /bøaba/?


Tu devrais savoir faire cuire un œuf dur, c'est le b.a.-ba de la cuisine !

On the other hand, the number 101 is used in Quebec, for example in this video series: Québécois 101

  • So, I guess, the French article cited in my question, could be just an one to one translation of an English article. Thanks for the answer.
    – Dimitris
    Apr 28, 2020 at 23:11
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  • I'm an anglophone from Montréal, so French is not my first language. However I did spend the first 34 years of my life in Montréal (including 6 in Trois Rivières). I don't remember ever hearing B.A.-BA before. So I asked my wife (who learned French in the late elementary school/early high school while at a Lycée in Algeria). She'd heard it before, but she doesn't remember ever hearing it in Montréal (where she finished up high school and lived until she was 34). Is that a French from France only expression?
    – Flydog57
    Feb 8, 2022 at 4:02
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    @Flydog57 It is definitely used in Québec, maybe less that in European French but here are examples from native Quebecers: 1. Le b.a.-ba de l’édition génomique, 2. LE B.A.-BA D’UNE EXPÉRIENCE RÉUSSIE, 3. Le b-a ba de la culture en contenant
    – jlliagre
    Feb 8, 2022 at 9:59
  • J'aime bien B.A.-BA parce qu'il est basé sur la reconnaissance d'une séquence de lettres du début de l'alphabet. Similairement, 101 est une première séquence d'une série. Cette adéquation morphologique ou fonctionnelle me plaît et ajoute à la qualité de cette traduction à mon avis. Feb 21, 2022 at 17:30

In France, a 101 course can be expressed as: introduction à: as in:

Introduction à la chimie organique Parcours : Sciences de la vie franco-allemand

Université de Strasbourg

Introduction à l'histoire contemporaine

Université de Strasbourg

Cours d’introduction historique au droit et histoire des institutions, par Eric Gojosso

Université de Poitiers

That's for the first meaning of a 101 course in some subject area.

Now, "That's cooking 101" (showing basic knowledge of a subject) could be said in many ways. And in English, it means: That's cooking for beginners.

"Ça, c'est de la cuisine pour débutants.

[Please note: I am specifically not referring to Québec as I am simply do not know what this idea would be there. 101 means an introductory course in higher education. A Phd-level course can be: 401, for example. These course numberings are American English originally.]

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Reyedy
    Feb 21, 2022 at 19:49

On trouve certainement au Québec des emplois avec « 101 » en adjectif (avec par exemple sur LaPresse : canot, potagers, populisme, rénovations, économie, testament etc.), pour signifier ce qu'on a identifié dans les autres réponses (ba.ba, introduction à). J'ajouterais l'abc/notions élémentaires/bases de, possiblement utiles ; Termium recense une traduction de titre de monographie L'abc des mots de passe pour Passwords 101. Savoir faire cuire un oeuf à la coque, c'est à mon avis un truc de base, la base, élémentaire voire fondamental.

  • ba.ba ne marche pas pour 101. Et oui, au Québec, je vois qu'on utilise 101 + un sujet comme potagers ou économie. ba.ba en anglais veut dire the basics of [subject matter].
    – Lambie
    Feb 21, 2022 at 15:09
  • @Lambie Ba.ba marche pour 101 jusqu'à preuve du contraire et une telle preuve n'a pas été faite. 101 peut signifier basic. Ton choix de traduire ba.ba en basics ne détermine rien du tout dans l'univers et n'empêcherait pas de traduire 101 par ba.ba ou l'inverse. Feb 21, 2022 at 16:29

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