French Expression of the Day: Être bouleversé

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French Expression of the Day: Être bouleversé
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If dinosaurs could talk, they may have used this French word to describe being hit by the asteroid.


Why do I need to know être bouleversé?

Because if your friend describes themselves this way you could be in for a serious conversation.

What does it mean?

Être bouleversé roughly pronounced eh truh bool vehr say – is a French word used to describe one’s emotions. It can be used in several different scenarios, however.

One might be bouleversé after receiving shocking and disappointing news, but one could also be bouleversé after a deeply happy and joyful event.

The verb bouleverser means to ‘turn something upside down’ or 'bowled over' in French, and in the emotional sense it means to be deeply moved or overwhelmed by a situation - either positive or negative.


This word is often used to describe becoming overwhelmed with negative emotions, and in this sense it would be most easily translated by the word “devastated.” 

Bouleversé can also be used to describe something that has “shaken things up” or “upset the usual order.” For instance, when discussing the France-Morocco football match during the World Cup, some of the French press said it had bouleversé the country’s electricity consumption. In this sense, the word was used to say that the match had caused an unusual upset to the electrical grid - a peak that was out of the ordinary.

In most cases, however, you will hear this word being used to describe a person who  is experiencing heavy or intense emotions.

Use it like this

Après avoir entendu la nouvelle de l'accident de voiture, j'ai été complètement bouleversée.  – After I heard the news of the car accident, I was completely devastated.

Elle pensait avoir échoué à l'entretien d'embauche. Elle a donc été complètement bouleversée lorsqu'on lui a proposé le poste et un salaire plus élevé que ce qu'elle avait imaginé. – She thought she had failed the job interview, so she was completely bowled over when they offered her the job and a higher salary than she had imagined.


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