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French expression of the day: Casser les pieds

Although this at first sounds like a medical issue, it actually has nothing to do with broken feet.

French expression of the day: Casser les pieds
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know casser les pieds?

Because it’s one of those expressions that is not what it sounds like. 

What does it mean?

The verb casser means to break while les pieds are feet, but this popular expression actually means getting on somebody’s nerves.

When you hear, je ne peux plus voir Jean, il me casse constamment les pieds, it means “I can’t stand Jean anymore, he is constantly annoying me.”

According to French dictionary website L’Internaute, the expression comes from the 19th century where casser was understood as écraser (stepping on), which is, indeed, super annoying.

The expression can also be turned into a noun or an adjective. A case-pieds is someone who’s very annoying, we could even say it’s someone who is a pain in the neck.

It's a familiar and slightly slangy expression so probably inappropriate for your next work presentation, but certainly not offensive.

READ ALSO: 11 phrases that will let you complain like the French

Use it like this

Tu me casses les pieds à toujours vouloir avoir raison – The fact that you always want to be right is getting on my nerves.

Cet enfant est un vrai casse-pieds ! – This child is such a pain in the neck!

Faire la vaisselle me casse les pieds – Doing the dishes annoys me much.  


Casser les couilles (vulgar) – Bust somebody’s balls

Pomper l’air (familiar) – Getting on somebody’s nerves

Soûler (familiar) – To be sick of something (careful this one can also mean 'get drunk')

Agacer – To annoy

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For members


French Word of the Day: Doper

This French word does not have anything to do with one of Snow White’s seven dwarves, even if it might look like it.

French Word of the Day: Doper

Why do I need to know doper?

Because you may not have realised you can use this word in several different contexts.

What does it mean?

Doper roughly pronounced doe-pay – shares the same meaning as the English word “to dope” – in the sense that it means taking or giving a stimulant before a sporting event or competition. 

It doesn’t carry the English sense of ‘to sedate’, however, nor is it used as a nickname for marijuana. 

In French this word is not only used when describing an athlete who has resorted to unfair methods to win. In fact, you will see this word in many other contexts as well because doper also means to stimulate or boost something in a generic sense. 

If you open a business newspaper in France, you might see an article using doper in the headline – perhaps one that discusses how the government plans to stimulate a dying sector of the economy.

If you want a synonym for doper, you can still use the verb stimuler (to stimulate) or dynamiser (to rejuvenate).

And Snow White? In France she is Blanche Comme Neige and the dwarfs are Prof (Doc), Timide (Bashful) Atchoum (Sneezy), Joyeux (Happy), Dormeur (Sleepy), Grincheux (Grumpy) and Simplet (Dopey).

Use it like this

La France dispose d’un plan national pour doper une énergie renouvelable prometteuse : la géothermie. – France has a national plan to boost a promising renewable energy: geothermal.

Les récentes réductions d’impôts et certaines autres mesures prévues sont destinées à doper l’emploi. – The recent tax cuts and other measures planned are intended to boost employment.