French Expression of the Day: Coup de barre

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
French Expression of the Day: Coup de barre
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Don't worry - this French expression does not mean someone actually had a go at you with a metal rod.


Why do I need to know coup de barre?

Because sometimes tiredness can hit you like a metal rod.

What does it mean?

Coup de barre - roughly pronounced koo duh bar - means ‘knock of a bar’ or 'blow of a bar'. 

Like the many French expressions that begin with coup - coup de coeur, coup de main, coup de bol, etc - the 'knock' or 'punch' is merely symbolic.

READ MORE: Coup: The French word that can mean a punch, true love, a one-night-stand and much more

When used like this, coup can express the feeling of being suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling - like someone actually knocked you over the head.

A barre is a metal pole of some sort, like the bar you use to lift weights at the gym or hold onto on public transport, or what ballet dancers use during dance class.


If someone says they have a coup de barre, then they mean they suddenly feel very tired or exhausted. 

There are some other ways to talk about being tired - you could also say coup de mou (feeling sluggish) or coup de pompe (hit by a shoe, or rather 'feeling flat').

You could also say je suis tout d'un coup très fatigué (All of a sudden, I am very tired), or je suis crevé (I am fried).

Use it like this

Je ne sais pas ce que j’ai, mais j’ai un coup de barre. - I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I feel exhausted all of a sudden

J’ai toujours un coup de barre après le déjeuner. - I always get acutely tired after lunch.


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