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French word of the day: Cassos

French word of the day: Cassos
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
You might hear this word used when someone's complaining about the state of society today.

Why do I need to know cassos?

Because it’s often used to paint a large group of people with the same brush.

What does it mean?

First of all, it’s important to note that you pronounce the final s, because the word is a contraction of the term cas social (social case).

Originally, cas social referred to a difficult situation which an individual or family find themselves in, and which could lead to social exclusion, meaning they need help from the State.

Today, the term cassos is used much more widely, but it has taken on a strong pejorative meaning – it’s therefore one of those French words that it’s useful to know, but we don’t necessarily advise using.

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Generally, it describes anybody who’s excluded from society, or who doesn’t fit in. At its broadest, it could be translated as “loser” or “misfit”.

However, there is very often a class element attached to the term. Many people use cassos to refer to people they consider to be “scroungers” – those who have no job and few qualifications, and rely on state benefits – or to young people who cause trouble.

When used like this, it can be considered a synonym of racaille – “scum” or “riffraff”.

The word encompasses a range of negative stereotypes, including poverty, a lack of intelligence, and behavioural issues.

Use it like this

Quel cassos, il ne va jamais à l’école – What a deadbeat, he never goes to school

Beaucoup de gens se plaignent des ‘cassos’ qui n’ont pas envie de travailler mais ils ne se mettent pas à leur place – Lots of people complain about ‘scroungers’ who don’t want to work, but they don’t put themselves in their shoes

Not to be confused with…

Cassos has another, completely unrelated meaning, because it can also be short for the phrase se casser (to leave). So if someone says ‘Bon aller cassos’, they’re not insulting you, they’re simply saying, ‘Okay, let’s go’.


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