Avoir Le Cafard

French expressions analyzed and explained

sad woman

Avoir le cafard means to feel low, to be down in the dumps, to be depressed.

Pronunciation: [ ah vwar leu kah far]

Literal translation: to have the cockroach

Register: informal


The French word cafard, which is probably from Arabic kafr, miscreant, non-believer* has several meanings:

  1. a person who pretends to believe in God
  2. tattletale
  3. cockroach
  4. melancholy

It was the poet Charles Baudelaire, in Les Fleurs du mal, who first imbued cafard (and also spleen, incidentally) with the fourth meaning. So the French expression avoir le cafard isn't related to cockroaches at all (even though it kind of makes sense—who wouldn't feel bad about having cockroaches?)


   Je ne peux pas me concentrer aujourd'hui - j'ai le cafard.

   I can't concentrate today - I'm depressed.

*Etymology notes from Le Grand Robert CD-ROM