For members


French expression of the day: J’ai le seum

This will help you out on a emotionally rainy day.

French expression of the day: J'ai le seum
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know j'ai le seum?

It’s a really cool way of saying that you’re feeling down. Plus, it’s so trendy that you might even teach your older French friends something new.

What does it mean?

It's one of the many slang expressions that young French people use. Avoir le seum means feeling ‘down’, ‘sad’ or ‘pissed’. 

J’ai le seum! – I’m so pissed/sad/angry/disappointed.

How do I use it?

If you, like any teenager, find yourself overwhelmed with negative emotions, but unable to distinguish whether they are sadness, anger or something else – just say you have le seum.

Le seum allows you to express your frustration without really defining what you're feeling. From tiny blows to the major downers – le seum is a great way to blow off some steam when you're feeling blue.

J’ai trop le seum, j’ai plus de batterie sur mon téléphone. – I’m so pissed, I don’t have any battery on my phone.

Tellement le seum! Mon équipe de foot a merdé hier, donc ils ont perdu le match – I'm so annoyed! My football team fucked up last night, so they lost the game. 

Ma copine a rompu avec moi hier soir. Le gros seum, quoi. – My girlfriend broke up with me last night. Really depressing, you know.

Where does it come from? 

Seum comes from the Arabic word sèmm, which means venom – which admittedly perhaps is the coolest way of saying that one is feeling upset. I'm feeling venomous!

The French language has adopted about 250 Arabic words, according to Le Figaro. Like seum, most of these have spread from the Parisian banlieues and into everyday language. (Among our favourite banlieue expressions is neuf-trois, which you can read about here).


As you may have noticed already, French people know how to express discontentment with linguistic variety as well as style. There are plenty of other ways to say j'ai le seum.

J'ai le cafard – I got the blues

J'ai le blues – I got the blues

J'ai le bourdon – I got the blues

J'en ai marre – I'm fed up

J'en ai ras le bol – I'm fed up

This list is not exhaustive.

Member comments

  1. why do so many words of the day seem to be negative, downers and even rude. Please post more positive, uplifting words and expressions.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.