In a recent "Gallimard présente" email the words "polar" and "thriller" are used in close proximity but seem to be interchangeable in French. The text: "Les amateurs de polars plongeront avec délice dans le nouveau Jo Nesbø : un thriller familial glaçant ou dans le premier roman de Chang Kuo-Li : un "thriller politique épicé à souhait". Is there a difference in the "feel" of these two apparent synonyms?

  • Not 100% the same. Polar is a detective story or police procedural, which is a set term in English.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 14:45

1 Answer 1


My opinion is they are not interchangeable.

Polar means roman policier (detective novel) so is about the subject while thriller is more about the effect to the reader, as glaçant shows (chilling).

Some thrillers might not be polars but just histoires de zombies, like Michael Jackson's song who popularized this word in France (and around the world).

See also this site that tells the differences. Thanks @None.

  • Pour étayer noircommepolar.com/…. Perso je suis d'accord avec l'analyse de ce site spécialisé.
    – None
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 15:54
  • 1
    Thanks so much for your answer and for the reference to the "Noir Comme Polar" site. This nails the difference perfectly!
    – LJM3
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 17:00

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