French word of the day: Durcissement

French word of the day: Durcissement
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This little word seems to have replaced 'confinement' in France lately.

Why do I need to know durcissement?

Because if you live in France you might be getting it soon.

What does it mean?

Durcissement translates as ‘hardening’ or ‘making stricter’.

Un durcissement du sol (a hardening of the ground) refers to the earth literally solidifying. But un durcissement des règles means ‘toughening up the rules’, as in making them stricter.

Un durcissement is the opposite of assouplissement, which means ‘loosening up’ or ‘relaxation’.

When French President Emmanuel Macron mulls stricter Covid-19 health measures, it’s called un durcissement des mesures sanitaires. He is considering refers to the action of durcir, which means ‘to harden’, to toughen up’ or ‘to render more strict’.

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The English equivalent or durcissement would probably be ‘strictifying’, if that word existed. 

It’s been rife in France lately, and some have poked fun of politicians and media employing durcissement rather than the (even) more negative confinement (lockdown).

However durcissement doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Covid.

Un durcissement des critères pour recevoir de l’aide économique means ‘introducing tougher criteria for receiving economic aid’. Un durcissement de l’opposition means ‘a hardening of the opposition’. Anything that can become tougher, stricter or stronger can be the object of a durcissement.

Use it like this

On s’attend à un durcissement des restrictions sanitaires ce soir. – We’re expecting a toughening up of the health restrictions tonight.

S’ils décident de durcir les règles à Paris, il faudra aussi qu’ils pensent à un durcissement des déplacements interrégionaux pour éviter un exodus francilien. – If they decide to render the rules in Paris stricter, they will also have to think about toughening up inter-regional travel to avoid an exodus from the Île-de-France region.

J’ai perdu l’accès aux aides sociales suite au durcissement des critères. – I lost access to social aid following the tightening of the criteria.

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