I am looking for a phrase that is used occasionally in English as a near synonym of "expertise". For some reason, "coup d'mentarie" keeps going through my mind, but I don't believe this actually means anything at all and it doesn't produce any results on the web.

To clarify, I am looking for a word or phrase that sounds similar to this, whilst I am foggy about the language of origin and precise meaning. French is just a guess. :)

  • Are you thinking of _coup de grâce? It does not fit your description (hence the comment) but might be what you have stuck in your mind.
    – terdon
    Mar 6, 2014 at 3:05
  • 5
    Were you thinking of "coup de maître"? It means "masterstroke", so not quite expertise, but a vaguely similar idea. Mar 6, 2014 at 3:11
  • 6
    By the way, you do realize that expertise itself is French right?
    – terdon
    Mar 6, 2014 at 3:29
  • Yes, Peter Shor! "Coup de maître" is the phrase I've been trying to recall! How do I select your comment as the correct answer?
    – user62022
    Mar 6, 2014 at 14:33
  • Tagger: I write it as an answer, and you select it. Mar 6, 2014 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


Were you thinking of "coup de maître"? It's usual translation is "masterstroke" (there's a website I found which shows it has also been translated as "hole in one" and "home run", both used metaphorically), so it's not quite expertise, but it's a vaguely similar concept.

  • 2
    This may be the phrase you had in mind, but it in no way fits with your question. A better example might have been "Playing the Bartók Solo Sonata flawlessly was George's coupe de maître." And a coup is more suggestive of a singular event or milestone, and not an attribute, such as expertise might be. Mar 6, 2014 at 21:14
  • @Jim Agreed. Which is why I added the clarification at the end of my question "I am foggy about the language of origin and precise meaning". I presented the way that I tended to use it in my head, while acknowledging that the actual phrase may be slightly different. My example is misleading, admittedly, and again that stems from my uncertainty over what the precise term was that I was trying to recollect. I'll remove it to make things clearer for others.
    – user62022
    Mar 7, 2014 at 1:56

Playing violin is George's forte

a person's strong suit, or most highly developed characteristic, talent, or skill;
something that one excels in.


1640s, from French fort "strong point (of a sword blade)," also fort, from Middle French fort.
Meaning "strong point of a person" is from 1680s.
Final -e- added 18c. in imitation of Italian forte "strong."

So don't let anyone tell you it's "Italian". It's French.

  • My bad. I concede that the noun form is French.
    – bib
    Mar 6, 2014 at 0:49
  • @bib is there a non-noun form of forte?
    – TylerH
    Mar 6, 2014 at 14:57
  • @TylerH Yes. See the first entry, an adjectival form. It can also be used adverbially.
    – bib
    Mar 6, 2014 at 15:05
  • @bib Hmm, I always just used that form as if it were a noun-type of music, similar to genre.
    – TylerH
    Mar 6, 2014 at 15:13
  • @bib: haha - I would say the "adjectival" musical instruction is "Italian"! To my mind it's not the same word at all as the one I posted up as an answer to OP's context. Mar 6, 2014 at 15:15

You might be looking for the phrase "savoir-faire" also.

In English, it mainly means know-how (knowing how to do) but it connotes a knowledge that comes from an expertise as well.

From vocabulary.com:

The nearest English equivalent of savoir-faire is know-how. But while know-how pertains to nearly all skills, especially practical ones, savoir-faire usually refers specifically to skill in social and diplomatic situations.

Reference to expertise makes more sense in French though.

From the book "Knowledge, Skills and Competence in the European Labour Market" By Michaela Brockmann, Linda Clarke, Christopher Winch:

"Savoir-faire" based on the implementation in a concrete situation of both knowledge and experience (such as the blue-collar worker's manual dexterity, the skilled woker's ability to deal with breakdowns or malfunctions). This 'empirical' "savoir-faire" may be acquire both through leanring and through professional practice.

Practical knowledge or expertise. French: "savoir-faire: compétence, expérience" in the exercise of an activity.

  • Good point and well brought up: +1. I don't think it can be fitted into the OP's sentence though. Mar 6, 2014 at 14:04

finesse might fit also.

[mass noun] Impressive delicacy and skill: orchestral playing of great finesse


1520s, from Middle French finesse "fineness, subtlety," from Old French fin "subtle, delicate"

It is mentioned as the synonym of expertise in some of the sources as well.

  • 1
    It might be a related word, but I don't think anyone would accept "Playing violin is George's finesse". Saying finesse is a synonym of expertise seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Mar 6, 2014 at 0:53
  • @Fumble: I upvoted your answer. forte seems like a better choice. I just wanted to give an alternative answer. Though, you can fit this word to the context as well.
    – ermanen
    Mar 6, 2014 at 0:56
  • Yeah, you can certainly say things like "George's violin playing shows great finesse". I must admit I feel slightly less comfortable with "George has great finesse on the violin" though. I think because I normally associate the word with a performance, rather than a performer. That's why I don't think it could easily be an "attribute" of George's exemplified by his violin playing - it's more an attribute of his violin playing (when he's on form). Mar 6, 2014 at 1:07

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