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French word of the day: Cauchemar

French word of the day: Cauchemar
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's one to spice up your vocabulary when you want to complain about something in France.

Why do I need to know cauchemar?

Because sometimes it's nice to say something more eloquent than chiant when you're complaining in French.

What does it mean?

Cauchemar is French for ‘nightmare’, and – like it’s English brother – it can be used to signify both a bad dream or a particularly stressful or unpleasant situation.

J’ai fait un horrible cauchemar cette nuit et je n’ai pas pu me rendormir. – 'I had a horrible nightmare last night and couldn’t go back to sleep.'

If you were in Paris during the transport strike, you may have heard someone explain quel cauchemar ! – ‘What a nightmare!’ – upon seeing the scores of people trying to squeeze themselves into a single bus or Metro.

Or, if you were watching a scary film on French TV (dubbed it from English to French, obviously), then 'I am your worst nightmare' would be translated to je suis ton pire cauchemar (orif the enemy in question was particularly polite, je suis votre pire cauchemar).

Other options

Another version of cauchemar is cauchemardesque, which sounds pretty fancy and French and means ‘nightmarish’. 

Let's say you're fighting the French bureaucracy machine on some topic and you're very frustrated. You could tell your French friend that c’était cauchemardesque – ‘it was nightmarish’.


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