En masse

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The French phrase en masse has been naturalized into English - but has kept its French spelling. Traditionally, it has been italicized to show its foreign origin, but it is now so naturalized that few people follow this practice any more. It means 'as a mass'. 'all together', 'as a unit (or block)', and in current English it is used mostly in terms of people moving, thinking or acting with a common purpose. In the past it was also used for physical objects, as when Mrs Gaskell wrote in Mary Barton (1848) "The things were..lifted en masse to the dresser" (I. v. 67, cited OED). (A levée en masse, plural levées en masse, meaning 'a mass mobilization', a phrase originally used in the French Revolution, has not been so naturalized, and should be written in italics.)

  • Although the pronunciation of en masse in French sounds very like that of 'on mass' in English, particularly to those who are not fluent in both languages,
            it is an error to spell the phrase in the English way, on mass.
Similarly, on route is an error for en route, on passant for en passant, and so on.