I have heard the following dialogue in the TV series "Unité 42":

  • Alors, ça donne quoi, les parents ?
  • Désœuvrés.

Context: a team of police investigators are investigating a murder of a young Daech recruiter. Two of them have recently talked to the parents of recruited young men recruited by the dead recruiter, which were potential suspects of his murder. In the dialogue above, one of the investigators ask how the questioning of the parents went.

According to Word Reference, "désœuvré" means "idle", "unoccupied", but that translation does not make sense here. Does it mean "hopeless" in this context, indicating that the questionings haven't brought any new leads on the murder case?

  • 1
    Providing more context like the fact the parents have a job would have helped to avoid misinterpretation.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 3, 2020 at 13:06

3 Answers 3


I don't agree with jlliagre's interpretation of the definition for désœuvré.

In these two links, we can find the following definitions:

Qui est mal à l'aise, désemparé, prostré parce que soudain privé de son centre d'intérêt.

Qui n'a rien à faire, qui n'a plus d'activité essentielle ; privé de son centre d'intérêt.

In this context, the parents are not only "bored" and "jobless", they feel like everything is pointless because they have been deprived from their center of interest, which is their son (who was recruited in Daesh and therefore probably left the house).

  • 1
    This is certainly the intended meaning, as the parents still have their jobs. Jun 3, 2020 at 12:06

Not sure why you consider the Word Reference translation doesn't make sense but there is no way to understand désœuvrés differently.

The police officer is just telling the parents are jobless and bored.

Meaning B-. in the TLFi: Personne atteinte d'ennui, de lassitude.

  • I disagree, "désoeuvrés" here means that they have been deprived from their child who was the center of their interest. It has a stronger meaning than only being jobless/bored: they basically see no point in doing anything because they lost the most important thing in their life.
    – Reyedy
    Jun 3, 2020 at 11:44
  • The parents are not jobless, they still have their regular jobs. Jun 3, 2020 at 12:04
  • The parents are not bored at all either, but rather they feel like everything is pointless because they lost what mattered the most to them (their child). These 2 feelings are completely different. You get bored with an uninteresting class, speech or TV show, not because your son was recruited by a radical religious group and disappeared/died. Jun 3, 2020 at 19:10
  • The feeling you describe matches lassitude (B-. here )
    – jlliagre
    Jun 3, 2020 at 19:55

I believe the terms idle, aimless and shiftless can all convey the meaning of désœuvré.

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