French word of the day: Crise

French word of the day: Crise
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Is it a crisis? Well, sometimes but not always.

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.

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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

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  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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