French word of the day: Casse-cou

French word of the day: Casse-cou
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In France, reckless people might figuratively break their neck.

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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