Discover the French idiom "Être de mauvais poil"

On this page, we are going to teach you all the things you want to know about the basic French expression “Être de mauvais poil”.

To be more specific, this includes a full guide of what it is and how to use it in everyday life with an audio example. And because learning a new language is important, we also sprinkled some useful informations like slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example, literal meaning and more!

If you are interested, you will find more expressions tutorials like this one on this page and the ultimate directory of all our French words content on this page. Ready to learn? Let’s go!

Artboard 1
Showcase of this quote from our Instagram account
Daily posts like this on Instagram → @all.french and Telegram

French to English translation

Pronunciation example

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?


  • Être → To be
  • De → Of
  • Mauvais poil → Bad hair

This idiom comes from the 19th century and makes a direct link between hairs and the mood. Because hairs are the first thing that you see when you look at someone, even before the skin. (Physically speaking)

And “mentally” speaking, the mood is the first thing that we see when we look at someone. So, instead of saying that someone is in a bad mood, we say that this person is “of bad hair“. Building a bridge between the mental and the body.

How to use it

Let’s imagine your brother wants to talk with your dad, but you noticed he is in a bad mood today. So you would say to your brother: “Ne lui parle pas, il est de mauvais poil aujourd’hui.” (Don’t talk to him, he is in a bad mood today.)

Another scenario, someone asks you: “How do you feel today?” and you don’t feel good at all. Then instead of just saying “Pas très bien” (Not very good) you can say “Je suis de mauvais poil, et toi?” (I am in a bad mood, and you?)

Fun fact

We like this expression so much that we also have one to say the exact opposite: “Être de bon poil” (To be of good hair).

Synonyms and similarities

  • Être mal luné → To be bad moon
  • S’être levé du pied gauche → To woke up from the left foot
  • Je suis de mauvais poil → I am of bad hair
  • Tu es de mauvais poil → You are of bad hair
  • Il est de mauvais poil → He is of bad hair
  • Elle est de mauvais poil → She is of bad hair

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
La journée commence mal
The day starts badly
Olivia:   Théo, il nous reste du gâteau d’hier ?
Théo, do we have any cake left from yesterday?
Théo:   Je ne pense pas. Pourquoi ?
I don’t think so. Why?
Olivia:   Je suis de mauvais poil aujourd’hui, j’ai envie de quelque chose de sucré.
I’m in a bad mood today, I want something sweet.
Théo:   Qu’est-ce qu’il s’est passé ?
What happened?
Olivia:   Je ne sais pas. Plein de choses… Tout m’énerve !
I don’t know. Lots of things… Everything is annoying me!
Théo:   Quand est-ce que ça a commencé ?
When did it start?
Olivia:   Ce matin…
This morning…
Théo:   Intéressant… Je n’avais rien remarqué.
Interesting… I hadn’t noticed anything.
Olivia:   Parce que j’ai essayé de le garder pour moi. Je ne voulais pas t’impliquer.
Because I tried to keep it to myself. I didn’t want to get you involved.
Get access to 365 French Texts and Quizzes

Become a member to access the full version of 365 texts and quizzes! 

Already a member? Login here