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.”

2 thoughts on “Terminology – What is a mène (end, round) in petanque?

  1. Many thanks to Jules Lenoir for his very interesting and well-expressed entry on “What is a mène?”.

    I’m a freelance translator from Ireland, but based in Marseille, the world capital of pétanque, just round the corner from La Ciotat, where the game (or at least its modern version) is said to have been invented. I do a lot of French to English translation concerning pétanque, and I’m often faced precisely with the problem of translating “mène”. I know what mène means (apun my word!! 😉 but it’s true that translating it as “end” or as “round” causes confusion.

    I agree that, theoretically, “frame” (as in billiards, pool or snooker) would be a good translation of “mène”.

    Or, taking inspiration from “frame”, perhaps we could say “circle” for “mène”, referring to the circle that is marked or placed on the ground at the beginning of each “mène” (just as the physical frame is placed on the table when starting a frame of billiards, etc.).

    Similarly, “hand” (as said in card games) is a close equivalent of “mène”.

    Also, in some ways, it would be good to translate it as “game”, as in tennis, as opposed to “set” and “match”. In this case:

    • “game” would correspond to “mène”,
    • “set” would correspond to “partie” (the stage that is won when one side reaches 13 points), and
    • “match” would correspond to a “match” or “rencontre” (or whatever it’s called in French – see below ##) that consists of a number of “parties” or “sets” (often 3 “parties” in this part of the world, unless otherwise stipulated).

    But of course, the word “game” can also cause confusion, too!

    So, for mène – partie – match (##), we could say:

    • circle (or frame or hand) – game – match
    • circle (or frame or hand or game) – set – match

    There’s no simple solution!
    In written translation into English, depending on the context, etc., I sometimes have to “cop out” (#) by writing “end” in inverted commas, or else “mène” followed by “end” in brackets/parentheses.

    # cop out: in British & Irish English, this means to avoid facing a difficulty squarely; we could also refer to ducking a question, dodging a question, or dodging an issue – I’m never sure whether Americans use such terms!)

    ## Please correct me if I’m wrong, but, as far as I know, strangely enough, there is no official or specific “technical” term in French for a match between two individuals or teams (e.g., corresponding to a match in tennis, consisting of several sets). French people often say “rencontre” (=encounter), etc. for a match, but I can’t think of any really specific term, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard the word “match” being used in French in the context of pétanque, whereas it is used in French vocabulary of soccer football and other sports.

    “Curiouser and curiouser!” 😉

    Peter McCavana (Marseille)


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