French Expression of the Day: Un nombre croissant

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
French Expression of the Day: Un nombre croissant

This has nothing to do with the delicious, flaky, buttery breakfast pastry synonymous with France.


Why do I need to know un nombre croissant?

You will see this often is news reports or indeed in any statistical context, but it's nothing to do with how many pastries you can eat for breakfast in France.

What does it mean?

It means a climbing or increasing number. In this context croissant is used in its original sense - to mean crescent - rather than the breakfast pastry that has become the more well-known meaning for the word. So famous is the croissant that foreigners are often surprised to hear the word used in any other context, but in fact it's relatively well used and the pastry is so-called simply because it is shaped like a crescent.

Probably the most well known example of a non-boulangerie use of croissant is the Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge - the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

But there are other uses as well, and un nombre croissant is a common one. It is used to suggest a growing number because of the shape of a rising graph and is common in newspaper headlines and TV reports.

For example 

Ces dernières années, un nombre croissant de pays ont exprimé  leur intérêt pour l'introduction ou l'expansion de la production d'énergie nucléaire 

In recent years, an increasing number of countries have expressed an interest in introducing or expanding their nuclear energy capacity.

Un nombre croissant de patients âgés sont admis à l'hôpital

A rising number of older patients are being admitted to hospital


In the above tweet, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner refers to a rising number of requests for asylum in France from 'safe' countries, while almost 30 percent of applications are made by people who started the process in another country.

You may also see hausse du nombre or  nombre grandissant to indicate rising numbers, although un nombre croissant would be more common. If you want the opposite - a falling or decreasing number - that would be un nombre décroissant.

For more French phrases and expressions, check out our French Word of the Day section.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Anonymous 2019/10/14 14:09
The verb is "croître," which should have been stated in the article.
Anonymous 2019/10/11 07:52
In this case croissant is the gérondif of the verb croître which means to increase and has nothing to do with the shape of a graph.

See Also