How would you say that your "stomach twists" because of great surprise, shock, etc. ?

Can you say: "mon estomac se tord" ?

  • 1
    These are idioms, by definition it's a bad idea to try and translate them literally ^^ Dec 20, 2018 at 13:23
  • 1
    @TeleportingGoat Fair point, but I only wrote it to show that I gave it some thought lol.
    – lmc
    Dec 20, 2018 at 13:27
  • Incidentally, what region is this? I've never heard that expression in southern Ontario.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Dec 20, 2018 at 18:39
  • @LukeSawczak Sorry, I'm not a native English speaker so I don't know where I got it from.
    – lmc
    Dec 20, 2018 at 19:19
  • Ah, okay. Interesting.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Dec 20, 2018 at 19:31

3 Answers 3


Une expression assez idiomatique qui se réfère aussi à l'estomac serait :

Avoir l'estomac retourné

Exemple d'utilisation:

J'en ai l'estomac tout retourné !


avoir l'estomac noué

Une autre expression liée à l'estomac. Cela signifie être anxieux, se sentir mal au point d'en sentir une gêne.

Ces examens me stressent tellement, j'en ai l'estomac noué / des nœuds à l'estomac.


No, an imaginative French speaker might guess at what you are trying to say but this combination of words is not at all used to express that someone has butterflies in the stomach.

It's an open question whether various emotions are the cause of the same physiological reactions in our bodies at all times and whatever the ethnicity we belong to. Moreover, it is clear that man has for a long time associated bodily organs with various mental states in a very approximate fashion.

In the case of very strong emotion, such as caused by horribly sickening situations, some people may be affected to the point of vomiting; there is no doubt that "twisting" of the stomach is a preliminary and that the stomach is affected to a greater or a lesser extent. In French the expression "avoir l'estomac retourné" is used for this type of emotion that has to do with sickening situations but that is all. In fact it is used also for stomach troubles caused by the ingestion of food that is not fit for eating and it is used also for nausea-like sickness.

Apparently, the French identify more readily the throat as the physiological recipient of mental schock: the sudden death of a husband, of a child… Those are shocks which those that bear their impact make manifest by saying that "ils/elles ont la gorge serrée", "ils/elles ont senti leur gorge se serrer". The heart is also believed to be one of the seats of the manifestation of physical sensations due to intense emotion like fear, especially sudden fear, and like great sadness. In this case too we find expressions such as "le cœur se serre" (voir ce poème), "son cœur se serra", "avoir le cœur serré".

The expression "glacer le cœur" is used to communicate the effect that great fear or great horror produces;

  • Ce film contient des scènes à vous glacer le cœur.

Further research instigated by @Lyzvaleska shows that "glacer le sang is more common in french; it is found in the TLFi whereas "glacer le cœur" is not.

The following are found in the TLFi;

Congeler le sang, le cœur, le cerveau. Inhiber les réactions, rendre incapable de fonctionner normalement (ce qui est assimilé métaphoriquement ou non à un fluide) :

  1. La rafale vous glaçait la moelle des os, vous congelait le sang des veines…

However, the physiological reactions that are related in those expressions are apparently of a type brought about by physical conditions, not by emotional stress.

  • "Glacer le coeur" seems weird to me, it is more "glacer les sangs", but maybe it is a regionalism
    – Lyzvaleska
    Dec 20, 2018 at 21:46
  • @Lyzvaleska "glacer les sangs" is close, but really, you should say "glacer le sang"; that the only form I find in two dictionaries. It is a form I knew but couldn't remember at the time of writing down the answer; as you make me think of it I can recall that the only form I ever heard is in the singular. I don't think however that "glacer le cœur" could be a regionalisme; the reason is that this phrase is found in the works of a serious writer, Guy de Maupassant, and that, if not always, those writers tend to adhere to a language common to all; it is possibly a rare form.
    – LPH
    Dec 20, 2018 at 22:27
  • @Lyzvaleska Taking into account that the form "glacer le sang" is totally familiar to me and that "glacer le cœur" is not, while it is not found in the dictionaries, it seems safer to conclude that this latter is far from being as common in the French language; nevertheless, as there is nothing wrong with it on the count of syntax I see no reason not to use it, provided a conviction that it is expressive enough motivates its use. I would however discourage the use of "glacer les sangs".
    – LPH
    Dec 20, 2018 at 22:34

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