French word of the day: Gravissime

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 12 Mar, 2021 Updated Fri 12 Mar 2021 14:42 CEST
French word of the day: Gravissime

When "bad" doesn't cover it.


Why do I need to know gravissime?

Because it's key crisis vocabulary.

What does it mean?

Gravissime is a fusion of grave (serious) and issime, which is not a word, but an ending you can put on French words for emphasis.

If something is gravissime, it is not just 'serious' or 'bad', but 'extremely serious' or 'extremely bad'.

Similarly, rarissime means that something is 'extremely rare' rather than 'rare'; topissime that something is 'super great' rather than just 'great'; richissime that someone is 'ultra rich' instead of just 'rich'.

The list of -issimes is long, and Wikipedia has dedicated a proper website to them.


Characterising something as gravissime is like saying that it's trop grave (so serious) or super grave (super serious), but unlike these two it's a recognised term and not just something teenagers would say. Prime Minister Jean Castex (who is far from a teenager) used the term earlier this year, saying that the Covid health situation had to be gravissime for the government to consider closing schools. 

French online dictionary l'Internaute defines gravissime as "when a situation seems extremely serious, without anything positive, and causes individuals to worry."

Use it like this

La situation sanitaire dans les hôpitaux est gravissime. Cela fait des semaines qu'on essaye de le dire. - The health situation in hospitals is extremely serious. We've tried to say so for weeks.

Ce qu'elle t'a fait est gravissime, c'est impardonnable. - What she did to you was really horrible, it's unforgivable. 

Je pense que tu ne comprends pas très bien le terme gravissime. C'est pas très grave qu'on laisse les enfants manger une glace avant le dîner. - I believe that you don't really understand what extremely serious means. It's not that big a deal to let children have an ice cream before dinner.


Désastreux - disastrous 

Alarmant - alarming

Catastrophique - disastrous


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