Excuse me I don't intend to earn merits here, as I don't speak french, but this one questions bothers me since a long time.

What does this tell me: "le diable au corps"?

Is it the devil in flesh and blood (like, standing before me), or is it the devil possessing a body, someone having the devil inside his/her/its body?

  • Welcome to FSE.
    – Dimitris
    May 17 '20 at 18:46
  • Le diable en corps doesn't exist in French. As you accepted an answer that assume you meant le diable au corps, better to correct your question.
    – jlliagre
    May 17 '20 at 21:02

The full turn is: "avoir le diable au corps". For example, il a le diable au corps.

Signification : Déployer une énergie, une activité intense, une vivacité surhumaine. Peut qualifier quelqu'un qui a des valeurs amorales.

Origine : Expression française du XIVème siècle qui puise ses origines dans les croyances populaires de l'époque. En effet, depuis toujours, les gens ont accordé au diable des pouvoirs extraordinaires. De ce fait si ce demon tendait à s'emparer du corps humain, celui-ci se remplirait d'une vivacité surnaturelle. Il est à remarquer qu'au début du XXème siècle, au cours des années 1920 appelées années folles, avoir le diable au corps prend une connotation érotique en assimilant le corps à la chair et le diable au désir. De ce fait, cette expression française tend à prendre plusieurs insinuations en fonction de son intonation: Admirative pour la personne vivace, sévère envers la turbulence d'un enfant et contenant de la désapprobation envers l'adultère.



Meaning: Deploy energy, intense activity, superhuman vivacity. Can qualify someone who has amoral values. Origin: French expression of the XIVth century which draws its origins from the popular beliefs of the time. In fact, people have always granted extraordinary powers to the devil. Therefore if this demon tended to seize the human body, it would be filled with a supernatural vivacity. It should be noted that at the beginning of the 20th century, during the 1920s called the Roaring Twenties, having the devil in the body took on an erotic connotation by assimilating the body to the flesh and the devil to desire. Therefore, this French expression tends to take several innuendos according to its intonation: Admirative for the perennial person, severe towards the turbulence of a child and containing disapproval towards adultery.

See also here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/avoir_le_diable_au_corps (in English).

Here: https://www.modele-lettre-gratuit.com/expressions-francaises/avoir-le-diable-au-corps.html (in French).

And here: https://www.languefrancaise.net/Bob/36468 (in French).

DeepL may be useful for the translation: https://www.deepl.com/fr/translator. You can find in the French articles several examples of usage taken from the literature.

So, to distinguish it, the term for the devil in flesh and blood could be "le diable en chair et en os" (Thanks @Greg).

  • Thank you, so what would be, to distinguish it, the term for the devil in flesh and blood? May 17 '20 at 18:52
  • You could say "le diable en chair et en os".
    – Greg
    May 17 '20 at 19:02
  • @Greg French is very, very different to (the few) other languages I know. And my teacher was not so good at teaching, more insisting on learning by heart, like storing things in a data base without understanding.. What would equal "incarnate"? May 17 '20 at 19:12
  • @GyroGearloose Mnemonics rules or rules of thumbs are quite useful when one learns French. Things as MRSDRVANDERTRAMPP (for verbs conjugating with être in compound tenses) and BAGS (for adjectives preceding nouns) may be in handy in the beginning.
    – Dimitris
    May 17 '20 at 19:17
  • @GyroGearloose incarner (?) L'incarnation est l'acte par lequel le Fils de Dieu a revêtu volontairement un corps humain (Jn 1:14; Ph 2:7; 1 Ti 3:16). "La Parole a été faite chair et elle a habité parmi nous." Le mot "incarnation" est un terme théologique qui ne figure pas dans la Bible; il vient du latin "caro, carnis" = "chair" qui est aussi à la racine des mots "carnassier, carnivore, carné". bible-ouverte.ch/cours-formation-biblique/…
    – Dimitris
    May 17 '20 at 19:19

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