I find it means something like "sudden rage", but i am a bit confused about the usage:

Syrie : le coup de sang de l'ambassadeur de France

in this article on lefigaro.fr. The ambassador doesn't seem really mad in the video...

  • The FAQ is not ready yet, but on the French Language Meta there is a discussion about its content. This is a simple translation question and it seems it's not accepted. Maybe if you provide your translation efforts, it can have a bigger chance to stay open.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 11:18
  • 4
    @Alenanno I'm not sure about this being a "simple translation"; "coup de sang" seems to be one of the many "coup de..." French idioms that have a meaning other than the literal translation; in this case, it seems to mean something like "rush of blood to the head" or "seeing red". Is that translation "simple"? Note that the top-rated FAQ suggestion contains this: "Asking about the meaning of a difficult French sentence is fine". That's what's being done here, IMHO.
    – Jez
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 15:05
  • @Jez I see... Mine was just an observation. If it's on topic, no problem for me! :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 15:10
  • The question is not very well asked. It should go something like Why can we say the ambassador is outraged? It seems to me OP needs help on understanding oral French. Now, is this part of FL&U? We could try rephrase or retag question.
    – None
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 19:40
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    @Laure I think the question on topic and well asked. If coup de sang is violente émotion, violente colère (from Larousse), I don't understand the title in the Figaro either, because on the video extract, he does not seem violently outraged.
    – rds
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 15:55

3 Answers 3


Un ambassadeur maitrise ses émotions, ça fait partie de son personnage. Il ne faut pas juger de son coup de sang à ce qu'on voit mais à ce qui est dit. Il prononce scandale et scandaleux trois fois en trente secondes : ça suffit à mon avis pour dire qu'il a un coup de sang !

The ambassador might not look as if in a rage because mastering one's own feelings is part of an ambassador's training. So you mustn't judge on looks but on what is being said. If an ambassador says scandale (scandal) and scandaleux (scandalous) three times in thirty seconds you can say he is outraged.

  • I'm sorry but this answer is not really pertinent for me. It addresses just the part "The ambassador doesn't seem really mad in the video..." which is not really the part of the question about French language. Could you, for example, say that coup de sang is usually employed to describe a situation in which the appearance is different from the real feelings of a person? Or, maybe, is it usual in French language to address ones thoughts or feelings instead of more objective universal and perceptions? Or maybe the article writer just used an hyperbole?
    – Paolo
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 21:40
  • 4
    You can use coup de sang for all kind of ires, from a contained anger to a sudden burst of shouting. As Laure was saying, it isn't really apparent in that case because you won't get an angrier stance from a diplomat than the one seen in the video.
    – Stamm
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 22:11
  • @Paolo: You said you understood the figurative meaning of coup de sang and apparently you do. So I answered the part concerning the French language you did not seem to understand. The rest is a question of behaviour and feelings, not of language.
    – None
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 6:39
  • @Stamm maybe from a real diplomat not, but it is not uncommon to see politicians to fight in the parliament (at least in Italy :P). As well, at the UN someone like Chavez or Ahmadinejad would be more vehement. Anyway I originally asked for the translation of the expression. I changed the question to show some effort, but it has been a bad idea. Getting an accurate translation of the expression would have be perfect for me. Now seems a bit late to me to modify the question again, so I will just resign myself about it.
    – Paolo
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 9:25
  • D'accord pour la violence verbale. Par parenthèse, je ne trouve pas qu'il s'exprime particulièrement bien... Outre, l'inadvertance initiale, il existe tout de même des synonymes pour scandaleux
    – rds
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 16:01

"Coup de sang" is used in various vague definitions because it is in fact a vague and sensationalist descriptive term which has all the hallmarks of a hype word. "Coup" is used for love, guns, punches, drinks, strikes, thunder, kicks, elbowing someone, damage. It is a word which is synonymous with drama and sudden alarm, a disorienting word for a user to filter cognitively. It's a shock word. It is not precise or academic. "Smash/hit of blood."

The figure of speech can be compared to "coup de coeur", which is used a lot in advertising and sales, to justify why someone would want to buy something.

Recently I saw "coup de sang" used in the news regarding a man on holiday who had a phase of dizziness and the next day stabbed three girls and their mum with a Swiss-army-type knife, puncturing a little girl's lung, at a holiday resort where he was staying with his wife and two kids… Allegedly because of a brain malfunction to do with an aneurism…

I haven't heard the term in 30 years of French fluency; it's an example of the functional quirkiness of modern French in a flashy media context and in a search for new form and function.

AVC is an unappealing term that makes people uncomfortable, because French needs a lot of momentum and song within its phrases to ring true; people refer to it instead as "attaque cérébrale" and other variations, perhaps part of the reason for the "coup de sang" existing. In English, it makes sense to discuss the ins and outs of strokes informally, but you won't have long conversations about AVCs, given that the term in itself inhibits good information exchange.


In an attempt to sum up the information I find most useful among what is said in the various comments I am answering my own question.

Coup de sang may be translated as:

rush of blood to the head,

seeing red,

sudden rage

In the article, however, the expression is used in a hyperbolic way.

  • 2
    You can wipe out the "probably". Coup de sang is not used here in its literal sense which is the colloquial term to describe the medical condition known "accident vasculaire cérébral". Although "rush of blood to the head" is sometimes used in English, we generally find "apoplectic fit" or "stroke". As for the figurative sense I find that the translation you gave in your question sudden rage is much better than seeing red. But let's leave it to EL&U.
    – None
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 7:48

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