French Expression of the Day: Perdre la boule

French Expression of the Day: Perdre la boule
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Are the Christmas preparations beginning to drive you mad?

Why do I need to know the expression perdre la boule? 

Because it is a common expression and should not be taken literally. 

What does it mean? 

Literally, perdre la boule (pronounced per-druh lah bool) translates as “to lose the ball/globe”. 

The actual meaning of this expression is “to go crazy”, “to lose it”, or “to panic”. 

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It can be used to show exasperation with a situation or to express genuine mental or cognitive illness. 

The expression traces its origins back to the 15th-century phrase, perdre le nord (“to lose the north”). When people back then were unable to locate the magnetic north, all navigation became impossible. Losing the boule (the Globe) therefore signified losing one’s bearings altogether. 

Perdre la boule is a colloquial expression to be used mostly in informal settings. 

Use it like this

Je commence vraiment à perdre la boule – I am really starting to lose it

T’as perdu la boule ou quoi? – Are you going crazy or what? 


There are a number of expressions that you can use interchangeably with perdre la boule to convey the same meaning. Their literal translations are below: 

Perdre la boussole – To lose the compass 

Perdre la raison – To lose reason

Perdre la tête – To lose the head

Perdre les pédales – To lose the pedals 

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