Here for example is the entry in Larousse for 'sort':

1. Puissance surnaturelle qui est censée fixer le cours des événements dont la cause n'est pas déterminée : Le sort en a décidé autrement.
Synonymes : destin - fatalité - fortune - hasard

2. Conditions de vie de quelqu'un, sa situation : Il ne se plaint pas de son sort.
Synonymes : position - situation

3. Situation qui échoit finalement à quelqu'un, à quelque chose ; destinée : J'ignore quel sera le sort de ce projet.
Synonymes : avenir - dénouement - destinée - étoile - fin - lot

4. Effet malfaisant atteignant un être vivant ou une chose, parfois attribué à des pratiques de sorcellerie : On avait jeté un sort sur son troupeau.
Synonymes : charme - enchantement - ensorcellement - maléfice - sortilège

I don't see anything that looks like 'die' or 'dice'. Maybe this idiom means something like "the Fates have thrown" and the word 'die' is just left off of the expression. Am I right?


1 Answer 1


No, "sort" does not mean "die", but the expression is idiomatic; in fact it is a somewhat literal translation of the Latin "alea jacta est" ou "jacta alea est" (Wiktionnaire).

"Jacere" in Latin means "throw"; "alea" does mean "dice" in Latin, but the coiners of the French form probably thought that the expression would be more telling if that word was replaced by "sort", which can in fact be translated by "fate". There is in English an instructive equivalent of this expression, which shows how wordsmiths can manipulate concepts: I am thinking of "His/their/… fate is sealed"; here too, the intention in using "sealed" is to show the inexorability of what is coming; the act of "sealing fate" is undefined; it becomes merely an "artificial" image, so to speak.

  • 1
    Good comparison at the end. In English "fate" seems to stand for "a letter announcing your fate"; in French it seems to stand for "a die determining your fate".
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 11:36

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