Avoir Le Cafard

What does this French expression mean?

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The French expression Avoir le cafard means to feel low, to be down in the dumps, to be depressed. It literally translates to "to have the cockroach" and is pronounced [ah vwar leu kah far]. It has an informal register.

Etymology

The French word cafard, which is probably from Arabic kafr, miscreant, non-believer (according to Le Grand Robert CD-ROM) 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

In order to use the phrase, you need to conjugate the verb avoir.

  • Je ne peux pas me concentrer aujourd'hui - j'ai le cafard.
  • I can't concentrate today - I'm depressed.

Source

Le Robert Staff. "Le Grand Robert CD ROM." Edition 1, The Robert, 2004.