Avoir le cafard

Avoir le cafard
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Informal French Expression

Meaning to feel low, blue; to be down in the dumps, depressed
Literally to have the cockroach
Register informal
Pronunciation [ah vwar leu kah far]
IPA   [a vwʀ lə ka faʀ]

Usage notes: The most common meaning of le cafard is cockroach, but there are a few others:

  1. hypocrite
  2. tattletale
  3. melancholy

Number one is the original meaning, as cafard was probably imported from the Arabic kafr, meaning miscreant or non-believer.* The evolution from that to "tattletale" is easy enough, but "melancholy" seems jarring.

In fact, it was the French poet Charles Baudelaire who invented that meaning while writing Les Fleurs du mal. Apparently the existing words – mélancolie, tristesse – just weren’t sufficient, so he turned cafard (and also spleen) into synonyms.

And so it is that avoir le cafard means to be depressed – regardless of whether you actually have cockroaches. 🙂

Par exemple…

Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais j’ai le cafard.   I don’t know why, but I feel blue.
Tu viens de divorcer, c’est normal d’avoir le cafard !   You just got divorced, it’s normal to be depressed!

Related expressions

  • attraper le cafard – to get depressed
  • avoir un cafard dans la tête – to have a screw loose, have bats in the belfry
  • avoir un coup de cafard – to have a fit of depression
  • avoir une crise de cafard – to have a fit of depression
  • ça me donne le cafard – that depresses me
  • ça me fait/fiche/fout le cafard (familiar) – that depresses me
  • le cafard me pourchasse – depression is running after me
  • c’est à vous donner le cafard – it’s enough to depress you
  • être dans un jour de cafard – to be depressed today
  • sortir d’une période de cafard – to have just gone through a fit of depression

Synonyms

  • avoir des idées noires
  • broyer du noir
  • être démoralisé
  • être déprimé
 Related lessons

*Etymology notes from Le Grand Robert CD-ROM

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