Avoir Le Cafard

French expressions analyzed and explained

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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

Etymology

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?)

Example

   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

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Lawless, Laura K. "Avoir Le Cafard." ThoughtCo, Oct. 22, 2017, thoughtco.com/avoir-le-cafard-1371109. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, October 22). Avoir Le Cafard. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/avoir-le-cafard-1371109 Lawless, Laura K. "Avoir Le Cafard." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/avoir-le-cafard-1371109 (accessed January 17, 2018).