Example of the use of crisscross in English:

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From Strongdar on Reddit:

In that context, crisscross would tell you that it crosses the street repeatedly, in a back and forth sort of manner. Cross would just mean it goes over the street once.

What's the translation of “crisscross" in French on this context?

translate.google.com says that the translation of “crisscross" in French is croiser, however croiser is also the transition of cross, as https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais-anglais/croiser/20503 mentions:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Dans quel contexte? Commented May 29, 2021 at 22:17
  • 2
    Please explain the meaning in English, and preferably make it accessible to people who can't see pictures. I find “crisscross” strange in this context: it applies to 2-dimensional objects, but a street is mostly one-dimensional. Does it mean that the tracks keep changing sides? Commented May 29, 2021 at 22:27
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    This is not good English. Crisscross is odd in this context in English.
    – James K
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 11:47
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    @FranckDernoncourt Odd because "criss-cross" has the sense "many straight lines crossing each other: up until the time of the Revolution this crisscross grid of walls in the landscape gradually occupied most of the communal perimeter — In addition to airlines , power grids , highways , railroads , post offices , telephones , radio and television , gas pipelines , oil pipelines which crisscross [ it ] , there are many more networks —The Paris subway (le métro) opened in 1900 and today includes 365 stations on fifteen lines that crisscross each other.
    – LPH
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 19:31
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    Please note: The English in the picture is not right. This question was asked on ELL, and it is very simple. No train can "crisscross a street". So, to ask for a translation of a misused term in English is really too much. The train is snaking its way down the street. And most of the answers here reflect that. snaking is curvy, crisscrossing is not.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 15:09

5 Answers 5


For a line that keeps going in the same general direction, but wobbles back and forth, the verb that comes to mind is sinuer.

La voie étroite sinue le long de la rue.

Another possibility is serpenter, which means to move with an undulating motion like a snake. Serpenter is close to “slither” in English, but only refers to the shape of the movement, it doesn't have any other snake-like connotation. Strictly speaking I guess the unmoving track sinue and the moving train serpente but in practice the two are largely interchangeable.

La voie étroite serpente le long de la rue.

Or you can just say that it keeps crossing from one side of the street to the other.

La voie étroite longe la rue en la traversant en de nombreux endroits.

La voie étroite passe sans cesse d'un côté de la rue à l'autre.

  • 2
    Sinuer or serpenter would be to snake in English, not to slither. Commented May 30, 2021 at 22:11
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    « Le long de » ne signifie pas spécifiquement « dans » : « Un sentier sablonneux serpentait le long du canal. ».
    – LPH
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 19:42
  • Il est à noter à quel point tout le monde ici comprend que l'anglais ne va pas. Un train ne peut pas crisscross a street. Par contre, serpenter c'est bien l'idée.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 15:12
  • @Lambie: A train can crisscross a river. From Google books: "Following and crisscrossing the scenic Noyo River, the little train crosses 44 bridges and descends 1364 feet before it reaches sea level at Fort Bragg." Why not a street? These are two different meanings of crisscross, but they're both perfectly valid in English. Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 19:35
  • @PeterShor I feel a difference between these two cases: a train that crisscrosses a river crosses the river all the way each time, whereas in the case of the question here the train is just changing sides but staying on the street. Would you say that a boat crisscrosses a river if it's travelling alongside the river and shifting from one bank to the other? Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 19:56

Knowing this type of rall line prior to this question (for example : the tram n°28 in Lisbon), the first idea that come to my mind was :

  • serpenter. "Former, décrire une ligne sinueuse"

Le petit train serpente d'un bord à l'autre de la chaussée.

But, after thinking about it, some people would probably use the less formal and less accurate (curves are not zigzags)

  • zigzaguer "Marcher, avancer en faisant des zigzags"

Le tramway zigzague d'un bord à l'autre de la chaussée.

Finally, reading the question again, it seems the verb crisscross here is describing the way the rails, due to their curve, are crossing the main flow of the street multiple times. The closest verb in that sense would be:

but the sentences with this verb seem less fluid :

La ligne s'entrecroise avec la circulation à de nombreuses reprises.

  • @Pasunclue They're just examples but anyway I adjust them to the present tense.
    – XouDo
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 15:16
  • Absolument, et très bien parce que l'anglais devrait être to snake. Et non pas crisscross.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 15:10

A verb I found while using Wiktionary that could (potentially) be used here is sillonner, though not being a native French speaker I don't know how formal/informal this word is nor if it applies in this context.

  • deepl.com/translator#en/fr/to%20crisscross%0A : to crisscross → s'entrecroiser (se croiser et se croiser à nouveau en différents endroits), cela peut se faire en sillonnant les rues.
    – Personne
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 21:13
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    Sillonner typically involves many parallel lines (sillons). I don't think it works in this context. Then again, I wouldn't use crisscross in English here either: to me this involves lines that cross each other. Commented May 29, 2021 at 22:37

For this very example :

  • La ligne de chemin de fer empruntait la rue, tantôt à droite tantôt à gauche.

This is a complex situation, that is not being rendered precisely by a single term, and there is no fixed expression for that. "Serpenter" and "sinuer" are proper terms for the description of curved lines in general, but in this particular case saying that the track "serpente" in the street sounds vague: a street is something which, specially in old urban agglomerations, is not so rarely found to snake through the town or through a neighbourhood; so possibly one might ask oneself whether what was meant could not be that the track snaked through the neighbourhood along with the street. A clear rendering of the proper term—if there is a proper term, as user James K noticed "crisscross" does not appear to be a good choice—should involve a little description. Something as what follows would leave little doubt in the reader's mind.

  • La voie ferrée serpente dans la rue, la traversant obliquement pour passer tour à tour d'un côté à l'autre, ne longeant jamais ni l'un ni l'autre que sur une courte distance.

"que sur une courte distance" can be eliminated, replaced or modified to fit exactly the particular case; other modifications can be made (for instance the negative "ne … jamais" can be removed so as to have an affirmative form, etc.)

If after a crossing from one side to the other the track keeps running along this given side over a distance that is long enough, then I think that describing it as a meandering track is not very meaningful.

  • la voie ferrée longe tantôt un côté de la rue tantôt l'autre, qu'elle atteint simplement en la traversant (au niveau de la chaussée).

"au niveau de la chaussée" can be added at the end to make clear there are no bridges or tunnels.

  • Thanks, great ideas! Commented May 31, 2021 at 21:01
  • @Pasunclue Right, the present fits the case better; I change that; thanks for the suggestion.
    – LPH
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 14:38
  • crisscross is misused in the English, as I spent a lot of time explaining when he asked the question on ELL. Funny how you instinctively go to serpenter, and the English should be snake. Comme je me fatigue à répéter, aucun train peut: crisscross a street. C'est impossible puisque aucun train traverse une rue en faisant des angles carrés.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 15:17
  • @Lambie: Crisscross is not misused in the English. It can mean what you think it means, but it can also mean what the OP thinks it means. See Lexico: Move or travel around (a place) by going back and forth repeatedly. For example (from Google books) "Following and crisscrossing the scenic Noyo River, the little train crosses 44 bridges and descends 1364 feet before it reaches sea level at Fort Bragg." Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 18:30
  • @PeterShor That Himalayan "milk car" is not crisscrossing a street. It can barely fit on the tracks going down the street. And that map that was produced to show its routes, is a snaking route. Consider: He crisscrossed the street, stopping at every single store he saw. A train cannot do that within the confines of a street. Come now. Now, a train may have a crisscross pattern over a large area, but not in the confines of a street. Whoops, I am repeating myself. One could say: The NYC subway system crisscrosses the city....right?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 19:13

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