French expression of the day: Avoir les boules

French expression of the day: Avoir les boules
Photo: 1Tomm/Depositphotos
Having the balls in French is not like having a ball in English.

Why do I need to know les boules?

It’s a slang expression to use on a rainy day.

What does it mean?

Directly translated, avoir les boules means 'having the balls' – and not the ball you use to play football (ballon in French). 

Boules is the French world for the other type of balls, although it is “difficult to say whether the ‘boules’ in question represent testicles or tonsils,” according to the French online dictionary l’Internaute.

But in any case the meaning of the expression remains the same. If you’re having the balls it means that you’re really annoyed, angry or upset.

J’ai les boules, on a perdu le match hier soir – I’m so bummed that we lost the game last night.

Tu me fous les boules!

Avoir les boules is colloquial on its own, but foutre les boules is even more informal (and l’Internaute here concluded that the balls in question do refer the male genitalia).

While avoir les boules refers to the person having the balls, foutre les boules points outward, in the sense that something makes someone having the balls (thus making them angry, annoyed, upset or scared).

Il essaye juste de te foutre les boules – He's just busting your chops.

Voilà de quoi foutre les boules à la patriarchie – That's how you mess with the patriarchy. 

You can use the expression about yourself if you turn it like this

Ca me fout les boules – It makes me really angry/upset.


There are many ways of saying that something makes you upset without risking being stamped as vulgar.

Ca me gonfle is a good one (‘it makes me swell [up with anger]’) or even ca me met en colère (which simply means ‘it makes me angry’).


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