French Expression of the Day: Avoir le cafard

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 16 Sep, 2022 Updated Fri 16 Sep 2022 16:03 CEST
French Expression of the Day: Avoir le cafard
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Sadly, calling pest control isn’t going to be enough.


Why do I need to know avoir le cafard?

Because it’s a handy phrase to use with a friend to describe feeling a little down in the dumps.

What does it mean?

Avoir le cafard – pronounced a-vwah le caf-ar – translates precisely as ‘to have the cockroach’ but it really means being in a melancholy mood, to feel a little blue.


The phrase has north African origins - cafard comes from the Arabic word ‘kafir’, which describes a person who lacks faith. 

In 16th-century France, the word carried the same meaning and has now come, via Charles Baudelaire’s poetic description of his emotions in Les Fleurs du Mal, to this phrase, to mean having little self-belief.

Use it like this

J'ai le cafard parce que je dois travailler ce weekend – I feel miserable because I have to work this weekend

Mon frère a le cafard depuis quelque temps et ne veut plus sortir – My brother has been feeling down for a while and doesn't want to go out anymore. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also