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French word of the day: Casse-cou

In France, reckless people might figuratively break their neck.

French word of the day: Casse-cou
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know casse-cou?

Because it's easy to confuse it with a similar expression that sounds a lot like this one, but means something very different. Plus it's a useful one.

What does it mean?

Not to be confused with casse-couille (ball breaker or ballache), casse-cou directly translates to 'break-neck'.

Se casser le cou means 'to break one's neck'.

Un casse-cou can be a person, a situation or an object – anything that represents a risk.

Un casse-cou – a daredevil.


Casse-cou implies some recklessness. A person who is characterised as casse-cou is not just a risk-taker, they are perhaps a bit too audacious.

French online dictionary l'Internaute offer the following synonyms: imprudent, gonflé, audacieux – imprudent, inflated, audacious – while Larousse defines it as someone “who exposes themselves to danger or throw themselves into businesses”.

Think about someone who easily gambles or invests in risky businesses. Figuratively, they might break their neck.

If a situation or a place is casse-cou, it can mean it's actually dangerous, so a person might literally break their neck.

Use it like this

Il me paraît casse-cou ce plan. – This plan seems too risky to me.

Pour faire du ski en compétition il faut être un vrai casse-cou. – To be a competitive skier you need to be a real daredevil.

J'aime bien prendre des risques, mais parfois j'ai tendence a être un peu trop casse-cou. – I like taking risks, but sometimes I tend to be a bit too much of a daredevil.


Audacieux – audacious (person)

Aventureux – adventurous (person)

Risque-tout – risk-all

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

You'll definitely need this phrase as the temperature rises.

French Expression of the Day: Faire trempette

Why do I need to know faire trempette?

Because you might need this phrase to describe that urge to jump in the water once the temperature hits a certain degree this summer.

What does it mean?

Faire trempette – usually pronounced fair trahm-pet – literally means ‘to make dipping sauce’ because the word ‘trempette’ is actually a condiment, or a dip, typically used for raw vegetables. In Canada, the dip is popular, and quite similar to Ranch dressing – a great addition to your crudités (vegetable snacks). 

But this phrase does not have anything to do with your healthy finger-food – in the colloquial sense, the phrase faire trempette actually means to take a dip – as in to go swimming.  

The way the expression came to become about swimming and not eating is pretty logical – in the 1600s a ‘trempette’ was a slice of bread dipped in liquid. As time went on people started to say ‘faire la trempette’ to describe the action of dipping food in liquid – like bread into wine – prior to taking a bite.

It became the metaphorical way of talking about taking a very short bath in the 19th century and now it’s the best way to reference the urge to  splash around for a second before heading back to the lounge chairs to tan. 

While you may  not have heard of this phrase before, you’ve definitely heard its synonym: the verb ‘se baigner’ (‘to bathe,’ but more so used as ‘to swim’). 

Use it like this

Comme la température augmente, je suis encore plus tentée d’aller faire trempette dans le canal. – As the temperature gets higher, I am even more tempted to go take a dip in the canal. 

Je pense que je vais faire trempette et ensuite m’allonger pour bronzer au soleil pendant un moment. – I think I will take a dip and then lay out to tan for a bit.