Terminology – What is a mène (end, round) in petanque?

The basic subdivision of a game of petanque is a mène, pronounced like the English word “men”. Roughly speaking, a mène consists of three activities – placing the circle and throwing the jack, throwing the boules, and the agreement of points. A 1971 Canadian Petanque Federation rules booklet defines a mène this way–

When all of the players have played all of their boules, we say that they have played a mène. A game is composed of whatever number of mènes is necessary for one of the teams to score a winning number of points.

As a subdivision of a game, a mène is similar to an “end” in curling or lawn bowls (a traditional British boules-type game), a “frame” in American bowling, an “inning” in baseball, a “round” in boxing, or a “set” in tennis. The English version of the FIPJP rules is a translation into British English (the supervising translator is Mike Pegg, an English umpire), so it translates une mène using the lawn bowls term “an end”. When Jean Bontemps made the first American English translation in the 1960s, he translated mène as “inning”. American petanque players often refer to a mène as a “round”. The most literal English translation of the ordinary French word mène is probably “direction”, as in “First we played in one direction, then we turned around and played in the other direction.”[1]

In my opinion, in the context of the rules of petanque, mène should be treated as a game-specific technical term and simply adopted, not translated. Every sport has its own specialized terminology for the subdivisions of a game. Tennis has sets, baseball has innings, boxing has rounds, basketball has quarters, bowling has frames. Why shouldn’t petanque have mènes? In English we can make one concession to English-language spelling conventions— we can omit the accent and write simply “mene“.

One of the frequently-asked questions about menes is “When does a mene start and end?” Another way of asking the same question is: “What kinds of events mark the start, and the finish, of a mene?” You can find the answer to that question HERE.


[1] The French word mène, when used as a verb, means to lead, to go to, to take to, to conduct.

Cette porte mène à la cave.
This door leads to the cellar.
This door goes to the cellar.
This door takes you to the cellar.

When mène is used as a noun— la mène— the most literal English translation is probably “a direction”, as in “This door is the way to the cellar. This door is the direction to the cellar.”

Terminology – piste, lane, marked terrain

The term “piste”, according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary is derived from the Old Italian word “pista”, from “pistare” — to trample down — and means a trampled-down trail or track, a beaten path. In snow skiing, a “piste” is a marked ski run or path down a mountain. By extension, a “piste” is any long, narrow strip of ground where some activity takes place. In fencing, the “piste” is the long, narrow area (the fencing mat) where a fencing match takes place.

In petanque, the term “piste” is used to refer to a marked patch of ground upon which one plays petanque. The term is extensively used in Australian versions of the rules, but other versions of the rules have used the term only rarely. Currently, the FIPJP rules use the term cadre (lane).

Words like “piste”, “lane”, and “cadre” refer to a set of visible, physical marks (or strings) on the ground. So a marked patch of ground can be a piste or lane even when no game is being played on it.

In contrast, the expression “marked terrain” is not a technical term, and it is used in a different way. The word “marked” is an ordinary adjective used to indicate that the patch of ground where a game is being played (the “terrain”) has boundaries that have been marked in some way. The terrain is délimité or tracé.

For more information, see our page on the petanque playing area.

When has the term “piste” appeared in national or international rules of petanque?