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The French idiom "Être de mauvais poil"

You are going to learn everything you have to know about the funny French expression "Être de mauvais poil". To be clear, it includes a detailed explanation of what it is and how to use it in a casual conversation with an audio example. But, we also added useful stuff like slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example, synonym and more!

French to English

  • Translation : To be in a bad mood

  • Literal meaning : To be of bad hair

  • Register : Informal - Funny

Pronunciation guide



  • IPA : / ɛtʁə də movɛ pwal /

aesthetic french quote etre de mauvais poil

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What does it mean exactly?


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 facts

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).


↓ Example in a story with slow French audio ↓

Finally, let's see an example in a parallel story with slow audio.

La journée commence mal

The day starts badly

OliviaThéo, il nous reste du gâteau d'hier ?
Théo, do we have any cake left from yesterday?
ThéoJe ne pense pas. Pourquoi ?
I don't think so. Why?
OliviaJe 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.
ThéoQu'est-ce qu'il s'est passé ?
What happened?
OliviaJe ne sais pas. Plein de choses... Tout m'énerve !
I don't know. Lots of things... Everything is annoying me!
ThéoQuand est-ce que ça a commencé ?
When did it start?
OliviaCe matin...
This morning...
ThéoIntéressant... Je n'avais rien remarqué.
Interesting... I hadn't noticed anything.
OliviaParce 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.


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Tu as un poil dans la main


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Des bonbons ou un sort !

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