For members


French word of the day: Crise

Is it a crisis? Well, sometimes but not always.

French word of the day: Crise
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know crise?

Because it's extremely common and can be helpful to describe all kinds of problems.

What does it mean?

Crise is French for 'crisis', although the gravity of the crisis in question depends on the context.

Whereas a 'crisis' in English usually signifies an 'emergency', 'disaster' or 'catastrophe', the French use crise about more minor things.

A French crise can be anything from economic downturns (crise économique), lack of social housing (crise de logement) to turning 30 (crise de la trentaine) or even, say, an haemorrhoid outbreak (crise hémorroïde – we picked up this last one from an advert for haemorrhoid ointment). 

Not to say that not all of these are serious problems, but English speakers would probably not characterise them as 'crises'.

'Crisis' is English is more like désastre or catastrophe in French.

Crise in French can also refer to behaviour. Faire une crise means 'to throw a fit'; une crise de larmes refers to 'bawling your eyes out'; while une crise de nerfs is 'a nervous breakdown' – though, again, the breakdown can be anything from running out of conditioner to losing your job.

This list is far from exhaustive, French Wikipedia has listed dozens of different types of crises, categorised after whether they are religious, psychological, political or economic, medical or demographic.

Use it like this

Je ne sais pas ce qu'elle a en ce moment, je pense qu'elle fait sa crise d'ado. – I don't know what is up with her at the moment, but I think it's teenage rebellion.

N'en fais pas toute une crise, ce n'est pas si grave que ça en a l'air. – Don't make such a fuss about it, it's not as bad as it seems. 

La crise sanitaire nous oblige de repenser l'organisation de la société. Enfin ! – The health crisis is forcing us to rethink how we organise society. Finally!


Incertitude – uncertainty

Difficulté – difficulty

Ebranlement – shock

Dépression – downturn

Member comments

  1. What then is ‘une crise de foie’? The haemorrhoid one sounds nasty and reminds that Viv Richards was the only person ever to drop out of a Tesrt Match because of haemorrhoids. Martyr to the Farmers was our Vivvie.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Avoir des idées arrêtées

This type of person knows what they like, and more importantly, what they don't like.

French Expression of the Day: Avoir des idées arrêtées

Why do I need to know avoir des idées arrêtées ?

Because your friend who will only watch certain movie genres might be described this way.

What does it mean?

Avoir des idées arrêtées roughly pronounced ah vwar dayz ee-day arr-eh-tay –  translates precisely to “to have stopped ideas.” 

In its normal usage, the phrase translates more accurately as “to have strong opinions” or “to have fixed ideas” – being uncompromising in your one’s viewpoints. 

Another way to describe this type of person in French might be “catégorique” (or ‘categorical’ in English). 

You might also hear this expression as “des idées bien arrêtées” – meaning someone who has ‘very’ strong opinions. Depending on context, this phrase might have a bit of a negative connotation, particularly if it is being used to portray someone as being stubborn.

Use it like this

Elle a des idées arrêtées sur les films, comme elle refuse de regarder tout autre film que ceux de Marvel. Elle ne veut même pas regarder les films DC. – She has very strong opinions about films, for instance she only watches Marvel movies. She won’t even watch DC movies.

Tout le monde dit qu’il a des opinions arrêtées, mais je l’ai trouvé flexible sur certaines choses… comme le choix d’un restaurant. – Everyone says he is uncompromising, but I find him to be flexible on some things, like choosing a restaurant.