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French Expression of the Day: Un nombre croissant

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

French Expression of the Day: Un nombre croissant

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.

Member comments

  1. 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.

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For members


French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

This French expression is not the kindest, but it will certainly get your point across.

French Word of the Day: Bordéliser

Why do I need to know bordéliser?

Because when things feel chaotic, you might want to use this word.

What does it mean?

Bordéliser roughly pronounced bore-del-ee-zay – comes from the swear word “bordel” which means brothel.

In popular usage, bordel is used to describe a mess or a chaotic environment, and bordéliser turns the bordel into a verb – meaning to make or create disorder, disaster or chaos. 

During periods of unrest in France, you may hear people blame one group for causing the problem by using this expression. Keep in mind that bordéliser is not polite language – the English equivalent might be to “fuck (or screw) something up”.

One popular theory says that the root word bordel comes from medieval French – at the time, sex workers were explicitly not allowed to work near the ports, so they were relegated to wooden huts or small houses – or bordes, in French –  away from the city.

You may also hear another French expression that uses the same root word: “c’est le bordel”. 

This literally translates to “it’s a brothel” but it is used to describe a situation that’s untidy, messy or chaotic, both literally and figuratively as in  ‘what a bloody mess!’ or ‘it’s mayhem!’ or ‘what a disaster!’

Use it like this

Le militant accuse le gouvernement de bordéliser le pays avec sa réforme impopulaire. – The activist accuses the government of “fucking up” the country with its unpopular reform.

Tu as bordélisé l’appartement et notre dynamique de colocation en achetant le singe comme animal de compagnie. Qu’est-ce qui t’a pris ? – You have screwed up the apartment and our roommate dynamic by buying the monkey as a pet. What were you thinking?