French word of the day: Flambé

French word of the day: Flambé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This French term is about more than just dessert (unfortunately).

Why do I need to know flambé?

Because if you don't know its second meaning, you might think people are bringing up sweet treats in odd settings. 

What does it mean?

Cêpes suzette, crème brulée or even omelette Norvégienne –  all are delicious desserts and all are flambé (flamed or burned).

But flambé can mean more than just faire brûler (burn) something.

The verb flamber has two meanings, one of which is 'to burn'. The other is 'to increase rapidly', so similar to the English terms 'flare up', 'shoot up' or 'rocket'.

For example: les prix flambent – prices are rocketing.

Similarly, une flambée refers to 'a hike', 'a flare-up' or 'an outbreak'.

So when the French health minister is talking about la flambée épidémique, it is (sadly) a much more serious message than that you should enjoy some sweet treats due to the Covid virus. Actually, he is talking about 'the epidemic flare-up', which in this setting generally means the Covid-19 virus is spreading at an increasingly rapid pace.

Use it like this

Le coronavirus flambe en France depuis quelques jours. – The coronavirus has been spreading extremely quickly in France over the past few days.

A cause de l'épidémie Covid on voit une flambée du nombre de chomeurs. – Because of the Covid epidemic we're seeing the number of unemployed rocket.

Après une flambée de contaminations ils ont dû fermer l'école. – After an flare-up of contaminations they had to close the school.

Pendant le confinement on a pu observer une flambée des apéros-skype. – During lockdown we saw the number of Skype drinks explode.


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