French word of the day: Couvade

French word of the day: Couvade
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
The French language is rich with really specific words that describe basically anything or any state of mind and don't quite translate. This is one of them.

Why do I need to know couvade?

It might be a French word, but it is describing an international phenomenon. 

What does it mean?

You might be familiar with the phenomenon that in English is known as ‘sympathy pregnancy’, which describes the not-so-rare case of a man putting on weight alongside his pregnant partner.

Well, there is a word describing that process in French: couvade.

La couvade comes from syndrome de la couvade, which is something that apparently 20 percent of French men experience.

A man suffering from this will experience similar pregnancy symptoms to his partner (belly-growing, morning sickness, etc).

But simply saying couvade can be used in a lighter, more teasing way for men who gain weight while their partner is expecting.

So if your Missus is expecting and your French friend asks, eyes lingering on your belly, tu couves pas un peu? – ‘are we getting a bit of a belly?’ – you will know what it means.

One French dad of our acquaintance tells us that 'it's because you have to drink for two'. Hmmm.


Seeing as syndrome de la couvade is actually classed as a mental illness it is probably better to use another term if you want to poke fun at a male friend who has softened a bit around the edges during his partner's pregnancy.

Bide is a very common (and harmless) option.

On a pris un petit bide, non? – 'Have we grown a little belly?'

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.