Merde = Break a leg
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Vulgar French Expression

Meaning damn it, break a leg
Literally sh**
Register vulgar, informal
Pronunciation French sound files [mehrd]
IPA   [mɛʁd]

Usage notes: The French slang word merde has more meanings than meet the eye. Literally, it refers to sh** (feces), and is used like its equally vulgar English counterpart. It can also be used like an adjective.

Par exemple…

C’est une voiture de merde.   It’s a sh***y car.
Quel film de merde !   What a sh***y movie!

As a noun, la merde can also be a vulgar way to refer to something troublesome.

J’ai perdu mon portefeuille, quelle merde !   I lost my wallet, what a pain in the ass.
On est dans la merde.   We’re up sh** creek.

 As an exclamation, merde is less vulgar – it’s more equivalent to "damn it" or "bloody hell."

Ça suffit, merde !   That’s enough, damn it!
On m’a volé le vélo, merde !   Bloody hell, someone stole my bike!

 Where merde gets really interesting is in the expression je te dis merde. It can be an insult, along the lines of "go to hell," but it’s also a familiar way to wish someone luck when you don’t want to jinx them by saying bon courage – just like "break a leg" in English. You can also just say merde.

Here’s Marion Cotillard explaining why to Stephen Colbert – followed by both of them demonstrating how much more intriguing even mundane things sound in French. 🙂

 Related lessons

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!


Questions about French?

 Visit the Progress with Lawless French Q+A forum to get help from native French speakers and fellow learners.

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.

Leave a Reply