Scary French idiom N°9 : avoir une peur bleue

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Avoir une peur bleue is a very familiar French idiom which has an uncertain origin but could be linked somehow to Chinese medicine 😯 !

avoir une peur bleue
Avoir une peur bleue illustration

This one is a very popular French expression ! It adds a bit of color to our emotion 😂 Now what do you think is the signification of this popular French expression in English: let’s have a look at the picture :

Some happy blue monster 👾
He is scary, don’t you think

Two French words :
 “avoir” = to have
 “une peur bleue” = a blue fear ?!?

It literaly means “to have a blue fear” ?!?

Avoir une peur bleue origin

avoir une peur bleue origin
Photo by 3Motional Studio on

“Avoir une peur bleue” is of uncertain origin and therefore has several interpretations.

A first definition comes from the popular belief that being scared turns your skin blue. This has probably a medical explanation that when one is subject to a very intense emotion such as fear, a high level of non oxygenated hemoglobin is produced in the skin capillaries, also known as cyanose. 👩‍⚕️

In 1896, in England, a cholera epidemic decimated the population. People suffered heavily from diarrhea which induced the cyanose state. The fear of cholera took the name of “blue fear”

When one is subject to fear, blood leaves our face and we look pale. Our complexion turns pale and cold, which is associated with the blue colour.

One last explanation could be that the French ancestors; the Gauls would cover themselves in blue to frighten their enemies, the Romans ⚔️

The origin of this expression has nonetheless never been verified. However Chinese medicine could well bring us a valid explanation.

In the 5 elements theory, used in traditional Chinese medicine, every meridian regulates an emotion and a mental states which is associated to a colour, a season, a taste, etc.

The blue colour is the colour of the water element et is thus associated to the bladder and kidney meridians. And the kidney meridian is the one that regulates fear, therefore to “have a blue fear” makes sense. 🇨🇳
Source : acupression

Avoir une peur bleue : French definition

avoir une peur bleue French definition
Photo by Anna Shvets on

Violente peur, très grande frayeur. Emotion forte qui accompagne la prise de conscience d’un grand danger, d’une menace importante. L’expression avoir une peur bleue signifie le fait de craindre énormément quelque chose.

Violent fear, very great fear. Strong emotion that accompanies the awareness of a great danger, a significant threat. The expression to be scared to death means to fear something very much.
The internaute

Avoir une peur bleue French examples

Elle est entrée précipitamment dans ma chambre ! J’ai eu une peur bleue !

She rushed into my room! I was scared to death!

Ce film était vraiment effrayant ! J’ai eu une peur bleue !

This movie was really scary! I was scared to death!

J’ai une peur bleue des araignées !

I’m terrified of spiders !

Avoir une peur bleue Other French expression

avoir une peur bleue other French definition
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

A synonym for this very common French expression is “avoir la peur au ventre”. I means to be scared to your stomach !

avoir la peur au ventre !

To have fear in your stomach

Meaning: To have fear in the stomach refers to the unpleasant feeling of stomach ache that we sometimes feel when we are afraid of something. The expression symbolizes a strong apprehension, since it is felt even physically.

Avoir une peur bleue Translation in English

I think we could easily translate this French expression in English by :

To be scared to death

avoir une peur bleue

French GCSE idioms

How could you use this idiom in your French GCSE speaking exam ?

Theme : Identity and culture (daily life/ cultural life)

Question : Parle-moi d’un film que tu as vu récemment ? Tell me about a movie you have seen recently?

Possible answer : ‘ Récemment, j’ai vu le film ‘it’ au cinéma. C’est le film basé sur le livre de Stephen King et c’était effrayant. J’ai eu une peur bleue. La scène où le clown apparait et le petit garçon est dévoré vivant est insoutenable.’

Translation in English 

‘Recently, I saw the movie 'it' at the cinema. This is the movie based on the Stephen King book and it was scary. I was scared to death. The scene where the clown appears and the little boy is eaten alive is unbearable. ”

Voilà, this was today’s French idiom in English, I hope you liked it. Click here to find out about the challenge of 50 French idioms in English.

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And I’ll see you next time for more French idioms in English ! 👍🧡

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