I'm looking for the French idiom equivalent to "Dear Me". It bothers me to no end that I can't find one that is accurate enough even though I'm French...

What I found but not actually satisfied with :

And that's pretty much all.

As several answers pointed out, idioms translation rely heavily on context.

In my particular case, it's in response to a comment eliciting surprise with a mild amount of discomfort/horror

As an example:

A friend tells you how his friend got his fingers stuck in a door. your answer being "Dear Me !"

  • 2
    The expression Dear me, is used by old ladies in England, as it were. Or old ladies with a certain level of education. It is old fashioned. Is that the meaning you are looking for?
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2020 at 15:53
  • @Lambie. True about the old ladies, but "Oh dear!" means the same thing and is still in common use. Oct 29, 2020 at 4:38

4 Answers 4


A translation depends on the context.

I Surprise

  • Vraiment ?, Pas possible !, Ça alors !, Bigre !, Fichtre !, Ciel !, Mon Dieu !

  • — This car can reach a speed of 490 km/h.
    — Dear me!

    — Cette voiture peut atteindre la vitesse de 490 km/h.
    — Vraiment ?/Pas possible !/Ça alors !

II Irritation

  • Mince, Zut,
  • Purée, Punaise (colloquial) (a bit naive, I'd say)
  • Merde (very colloquial to vulgar)

Dear me, I forgot to mail it. → Mince, j'ai oublié de le mettre à la poste.

III Sympathy

  • Oh là là, Oh mon Dieu, Mon Dieu !

Dear me, the poor man must be suffering. → Oh là là ! Le pauvre homme doit souffrir !

IV Distress

  • Oh là là !

All this work I have to do! Dear me, I'll never manage to get it done… → Tout ce travail que j'ai à faire ! Oh là là ! Je n'y arriverai jamais …


  • You are totally right that it depends on the context, and that's even more true for idioms. In my particular case, it's in response to a comment eliciting surprise with a mild amount of discomfort/horror.
    – Irwene
    Oct 19, 2020 at 12:07
  • Accepted your answer because you approached it from several angles. Someone else suggested "Ciel !" which I found really appropriate in the given context (a variation of "mon dieu")
    – Irwene
    Oct 19, 2020 at 14:33
  • @Sidewinder94 "Ciel !" is appropriate for surprise : "Mon Dieu !/Ciel ! Comme il a grandit !". While putting together the "sympathy" part in my answer I was looking for a possibility to convey the mild horror you are talking about but I couldn't come up with anything mild enough; there is "Horreur !" but I'm afraid it's too strong in comparison to "dear me".
    – LPH
    Oct 19, 2020 at 14:48
  • 1
    This is much too broad. And pauvre de moi is not dear me.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2020 at 15:52
  • @Lambie The OP made the edit "In my particular case, it's in response to a comment eliciting surprise with a mild amount of discomfort/horror" after my answer appeared. Anyway it is never an error to provide other contexts than those in question as they give an opportunity to situate better the term discussed. Is "pauvre de moi" too strong or is it that it doesn't apply at all?
    – LPH
    Oct 19, 2020 at 17:29

I would suggest

pauvre de moi

as it include the "self complaint" component of "dear ME" (also poor me in English). Dear me is however also used in other context 'sympathy, surprise' hat are then different from "poor me". In which case I suggest (to remain polite):

Mince alors, zut alors

  • I really like the first of your suggestions, as it's idioms we're talking about, I'm aware that it won't ever be perfect, but, I feel that it would feel the need the best. I'll wait for some more suggestions, but if nothing better comes out, I'll probably accept your answer.
    – Irwene
    Oct 19, 2020 at 9:45
  • @Sidewinder94 — « Pauvre de moi » si je suis le seul concerné, une autre autrefois entendue si une famille ou un groupe est concerné : « Doux Jéz » pour "Doux Jésus", connotation chrétienne "Bon Chic Bon Genre" (BCBG) fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_chic_bon_genre
    – Personne
    Oct 19, 2020 at 10:29
  • 1
    People say Dear me. all the time in English, but French speakers don't use pauvre de moi, as often.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2020 at 15:51
  • @Sidewinder94 this is very local, but a small part of Belgium says "Oufti"
    – radouxju
    Oct 20, 2020 at 6:32

A few old fashioned expressions:


  • I should probably have added more details in the question, because I don't feel it fits. The context is a reaction to someone else's comment eliciting surprise and mild discomfort/horror. It still might be the closest, but in this case, the "Mon dieu" I found, might juste be the best equivalent.
    – Irwene
    Oct 19, 2020 at 9:15
  • 2
    Dear me is not Oh shit. Really. "Dear me." is what little old ladies say. "Dear me, the dog has done his business on the carpet.". Basically, Oh là là....
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2020 at 17:34
  • @Lambie Crotte ! Le chien a encore fait ses besoins sur le tapis.
    – jlliagre
    Oct 19, 2020 at 19:12
  • 1
    zut, c'est darn, flûte et crotte sont des euphemismes for foutre et merde. If anything, Dear me is like Dear God, Mon dieu.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2020 at 20:09
  • 1
    crotte for merde is fine. It just does not translate Dear me.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2020 at 21:27

J'utiliserais l'expression « Bonté Divine ! »

Ça me semble bien retranscrire le côté suranné.

  • Bonté divine would be "good heavens"/"good gracious" or even "bloody hell", not "dear me". And "dear me" (often shortened to "oh dear" is not "surrané" in Br. English.
    – None
    Jan 23, 2022 at 14:28

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