"Torsade de pointes" is a cardiac condition which can lead to sudden cardiac death. It can be translated as "twisting of points" (The French term is always used in English, not the translation). It was first described and therefore named by a French physician.

My question is why don't we call it "torsade des pointes"? Given the fact that "pointes" is a plural word.

  • 3
    There are many questions about de and des on the site already (though many were asked in French). I think this one in English may possibly answer your question french.stackexchange.com/questions/13872/…. Jul 17, 2017 at 21:25
  • Note that it is never translated ("twisting of points" is given as an explanation of the French not really as a translation). E.G. It is either Torsade de pointes or torsades de pointes (optional s on torsade*)
    – None
    Jul 18, 2017 at 10:02

3 Answers 3


I'll make a linguist's answer since I do not belong to the medical profession.

I've done a search on the question and I have noticed that it is more often called torsades de pointes than torsade de pointes. I expect some justify the plural because several torsades are shown on the ECG. It most likely does not affect the choice between de and des.1

I thought at first the pointes were referring to the peaks shown on the ECG, I was totally wrong, the ultimate findings in my research show that the name torsade de pointes was given because:

This was symbolically termed torsade de pointes, or "twisting of the point" about the isoelectric axis, because it reminded the authors of the torsade de pointes movement in ballet.2

This strengthens my conviction that we are referring to some pointes (no definite article) and not to all (des (de+les)).

1 e.g Torsades de pointes on Site de formation à la lecture de l'ElectroCardioGramme.

2 Numerous references can be found on the Internet. Here's one in a research paper.

And to finish on a more literary note I point to this poem I stumbled upon doing my research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Torsades de Pointes

  • Sorry, I still don't understand. Do you mean that "torsades des pointes" is not 'wrong', it just means twisting of "all points"? As an example: "couleurs des pommes" would mean "color of all apples", but "couleurs de pommes" is also correct and it means "color of some of the apples". Is this correct? Jul 19, 2017 at 13:20
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    @aman_aegit Phrases like torsade des pointes usually mean that you have a particular group of pointes in mind. Phrases like torsade de pointes usually just mean the sort of twisting that involves pointes ; pointes characterizes torsade. I believe Laure is saying that since the pointes here turn out to be figurative, not the literal peaks shown on the ECG, there's no particular group of pointes so you don't use des.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:40
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    @arman_aegit Was answering you when Luke Sawczak's answer popped up. Yes I think you've got the difference between de & des in that case.
    – None
    Jul 19, 2017 at 13:42

'Torsade DES pointes' would mean the 'torsade' has been made by the 'pointes'. 'Torsade DE pointes' means it is composed of multiple 'pointes'. It simply is different because they don't mean the same thing.

Although, I don't know this condition, but I'm not sure if you've got the translation from an engine or from a real professional. The French version sounds weird.

  • It is not a French translation, it is the French name given to this condition by the French doctor who identified it. And it is never translated in the profession, the French name is always used in English, by doctors & patients. You can google it find out.
    – None
    Jul 18, 2017 at 14:44
  • oh okay i didn't know :) thanks for the info ! Jul 19, 2017 at 7:00
  • Wel.. the OP says it in his question !
    – None
    Jul 19, 2017 at 7:11
  • If I wanted to say the torsade has been made by the pointes I would most likely say pointes de torsades.
    – None
    Jul 19, 2017 at 8:43
  • nuh huh, pointes de torsades means pointes made out of torsades :). Jul 19, 2017 at 11:21

In that case "des" would be the equivalent of "de les" ("of the" in English). However here it seems (I don't really know about medical vocabulary so I can't guarantee it) that the meaning is "de des" ("of + Ø" in English), which is shortened into "de".

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