French word of the Day: La cata

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French word of the Day: La cata

Feeling a trifle over-emotional? Here's how to get dramatic in French.


Why do I need to know la cata?

It's a slight slangy abbreviation, but very commonly used in everyday conversation, especially if you're feeling a bit theatrical about things.

What does it mean?

Cata is an abbreviation of catastrophe, which translates exactly as you would expect.

While you can use la catastrophe in everyday conversation, la cata is a bit punchier and more casual.

You can use it to describe something genuinely catastrophic, but it's more commonly used to be a bit sarcastic about something that's not actually that big a deal.


If you are referring to something that was a genuine catastrophe, like the Chernobyl disaster, using la cata might seem a little flippant, so we would suggest sticking with the full version la catastrophe for something like that or alternatively une drame - a tragedy.

Use it like this

In its more sincere sense you could - if begging for a wronged lover to take you back - say C'est la cata sans toi - I'm a disaster area without you.

Or in its more colloquial sense, you could say Je me suis cassé un ongle. La cata! - I've broken a nail. Disaster!

You will also frequently hear quelle cata - what a catastrophe.

La boulangerie n'a plus de pain au raisin? Oui, quelle cata - The bakery's out of pain au raisin? Yeah, what a disaster.



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