French Word of the Day: Coqueluche

French Word of the Day: Coqueluche
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Coqueluche is a very bad thing to have - but an excellent thing to be.

Why do I need to know the word coqueluche?

Because this word has two radically different meanings and it is important not to get confused. 

What does it mean? 

The first translation of coqueluche, pronounced “cock-uh-loosh”, is “whooping cough”. 

This is a highly contagious bacterial disease, also sometimes referred to in English as “pertussis” or the “100-day cough”. 

Symptoms can include fits of coughing that can be so bad that they lead to vomiting and broken ribs. The sharp intake of breath can resemble a high-pitched whooping noise. Some believe that this sounds a bit like the crow of a rooster – or coq in French – hinting at the word’s etymology. 

Fortunately, in many countries around the world, children are vaccinated against whooping cough at a young age so it’s a lot less prevalent these days than it once was. 

The other translation of coqueluche is radically different – it can mean “darling” or “favourite”. It is often used to talk about public personalities but can also be used in a scholarly setting. 

Use it like this 

When talking about the disease, you could use the following phrases: 

Le nombre de cas a très fortement baissé depuis l’introduction du vaccin contre la coqueluche – The number of cases has fallen a lot since the introduction of the vaccine against whooping cough 

La coqueluche est très contagieuse – Whooping cough is very contagious

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See also on The Local:

When using coqueluche in the other sense of the word, you could say the following: 

La princesse Diana fut la coqueluche des médias – Princess Diana was the darling of the media 

Avec mon accent charmant, je suis la coqueluche de la class – With my charming accent, I am the class favourite 

Je me révolte contre l’idée qu’il est la coqueluche de toutes les dames – I disagree with the idea that he is the favourite of all the women 


There are some alternative ways to describe someone as “the favourite”: le préféré, le favori, le privilégie

Other expressions include:

Le chouchou  – The teacher’s pet

Le lèche-cul – The arse licker 

L’idole – The idol 

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