First used in the 19th century, the idiom “être bourré” (to be drunk in French) has become the standard expression to express a high state of inebriation in France. It’s an expression colloquially used in French to describe a state of advanced alcoholic intoxication.
The expression refers to the original meaning of the word, which means “to fill something to excess”, and can therefore also be used to mean “to have eaten too much”.
As you will see in the following lines, the French language is particularly flowery when it comes to describing the effects of alcohol. This gives rise to a number of more or less colorful French expressions for “drunk”. This expression testifies to the cultural importance attached to alcohol consumption and the way it is verbally transcribed into the French language.
6 Ways to Say You’re Slightly Drunk in French
- Être pompette (colloquial)
English translation: Being tipsy
Although it can be used by anyone, the expression “être pompette” is generally used to refer to female drunkenness. The origin of the expression remains unclear, to say the least, but its etymology is much less so. “Pompette” comes from the verb “pomper” (to pump), which meant “to drink” or “to ingest a liquid” in the 20th century.
- Être gai (common)
English translation: Being jolly
The expression for drunk in French, “être gai”(be happy) refers to the euphoria one can feel after consuming a few drinks. It has also given rise to the expression “avoir l’alcool joyeux” (to have a merry drink).
- Être éméché (colloquial)
English translation: Being tipsy
The exact origin of the expression “être éméché” remains uncertain, although several hypotheses have been put forward. The term “éméché” could refer to the redness of the face after drinking or to the drunkard’s wild hair, but the most likely origin is the metaphor comparing the excitement of alcohol to the wick of a candle.
- Être joyeux (common)
English translation: Being merry
Like the expression “têtre gai”, “être joyeux” (to be merry) refers to the feeling of pleasure that comes from being intoxicated.
- Être gris (colloquial)
English translation: Being grey (literal) / Being tipsy
Although the term “gris” (gray) may recall the pale complexion one might have after consuming a little too much alcohol, the expression “être gris” (to be gray) refers to the alcohol vapors that tend to go to one’s head and make one dizzy.
- Avoir son pompon (colloquial)
English translation: Having your pom-pom (literal) / Being tipsy
An old French expression dating back to the 19th century, “avoir son pompon” was used to describe a drunken soldier. The term “pompon” referred to the military pompom.
Read more: Legal Drinking Age in France: What to Know?
34 Expressions Synonymous with Bourré (Drunk in French)
- Être bourré comme un coing (colloquial)
English translation: Being drunk as a quince (literal) / Being drunk as a skunk
The origin of the expression “être bourré comme un coing” is somewhat obscure, but the hypothesis supported by the greatest number of linguists seems to be that the fruit was chosen for its roundness, referring directly to another synonym of “être bourré”: “être rond” (be round).
- Être saoul (comme un cochon) (colloquial)
English translation: Being drunk as a pig (literal) / Being drunk as a skunk
“Être saoul comme un cochon”, which can also be spelled “drunk as a pig”, refers to pigs who have a habit of dragging themselves through the mud. The expression is used to describe someone so drunk they can’t stand up.
- Être ivre (common)
English translation: Being intoxicated
“Être ivre” is one of the most sustained ways of saying “être bourré” in French. Derived from the Latin word “ebrius”, where “e” means “hors” (out) and “brius” means “sorte de mesure” (kind of measure), the expression thus means word for word “qui est hors de mesure” (who is out of measure).
- Être torché (colloquial)
English translation: Being well oiled
In everyday language, the term “torché” (torched) means “bien fait” (well done) or “torcher” (finished). “Être torché” (to be “torched”) or “se torcher” (torch oneself) therefore means to drink to the limit, like “bourré”.
- Être pinté (colloquial)
English translation: Being full of pints (literal) / Being juiced-up
The expressions for drunk in French, “être pinté” and “se pinter” are derived from the term “pinte”, which represents half a liter of beer in France. “Être pinté” is therefore used as a synonym for bourré when one has specifically consumed a lot of beer.
- Être torchon chiffon carpette (colloquial)
English translation: Being a rag/rug (literal) / Being canned
Popularized by one of Les Inconnus’ star sketches, “être torchon chiffon carpette” is a combination of three expressions synonymous with drunk: “être torchon”, (be a dishcloth) “être chiffon” (be a rag) and “être carpette” (be a carpet). The fusion of these expressions amplifies the level of drunkenness.
- Être bleu (colloquial)
English translation: Being blue (literal) / Being wasted
Used mainly in the Alpes-Maritimes region, the expression “être bleu” has no proven etymology as a synonym for drunk. However, we can speculate that it’s linked to a gradation system of some kind, since in even more extreme cases of inebriation, we might use “être bleu nuit” or “être noir”.
- Être schlass (colloquial)
English translation: Being knackered (literal) / Being tanked
Derived from the German word “schlaff” (limp, tired), “être schlass” would thus come from Franco-German military slang. The expression is therefore mainly used in Alsace.
- Être déchiré (colloquial)
English translation: Being wasted
First coined in the 19th century, “être déchiré” (be torn) derives directly from another expression, “déchirer sa chemise”, which meant “to tear one’s shirt”. It thus refers to the state you find yourself in when you’ve had too much to drink. The expression later gave rise to variants such as “déchiré comme un drapeau” (torn like a flag) or “déchiré comme un cow-boy” (torn like a cowboy).
- Être ré-bou (colloquial)
English translation: Being drunk
“Être ré-bou” is a colloquial expression particularly popular with young people. And for good reason, the term is simply “bourré” in the verlan French slang (bou-ré => ré-bou).
- Boire comme un trou (colloquial)
English translation: Drinking like a fish
The expression “boire comme un trou” (to drink like a hole) is used to describe someone who never stops drinking, like a hole into which a liquid never stops flowing. In the same vein, there’s also “boire comme un puits sans fond” (to drink like a bottomless pit).
- Être cuit (colloquial)
English translation: Being fried
Although the origin of the expression remains uncertain, it can be assumed that “être cuit” (being cooked) refers to the heat that alcohol causes in humans, particularly in their brains, thus greatly reducing their cognitive abilities.
- Être raide (colloquial)
English translation: Being stiff (literal) / Being loaded
Despite what you might think at first glance, “être raide” (being stiff) doesn’t refer to the rigidity of the body, but to the stiffness of the parched tongue after too much alcohol.
- Être rond (comme une queue de pelle) (colloquial)
English translation: Being round as the stick of a shovel (literal) / Being three sheets to the wind
The term “rond” (round) was used in the 12th century to designate someone who had eaten and drunk to satiety (someone whose belly was round from drinking and eating). That’s why it’s used instead of “saoul” in French slang today.
The expression has subsequently given rise to a host of metaphors referring to round objects of all kinds: queue de pelle (the tail of a shovel), œuf (an egg), coing (quince), pomme (apple), bille (marble)…
- Être pété (colloquial)
English translation: Being blasted
The verb “péter” can be used as a synonym for “éclater” (burst) or “exploser” (explode). The expression “être pété” (to be drunk) simply refers to the state of tiredness and drunkenness you feel when you’ve abused alcohol.
- Être faya (colloquial)
English translation: Being fire (literal) / Being juiced up
Brought to prominence by the French hip-hop artist Doc Gynéco in his song Les Mêmes Droits at the dawn of the 2000s, “être faya” is an expression synonymous with drunkenness that has kept up with the times. A distortion of the English word “fire”, “être faya” refers to the hot sensations experienced when under the influence of alcohol.
- Avoir un coup dans l’aile (common)
English translation: Having a knock on the wing (literal) / Being the worse for wear
A popular twentieth-century expression, “avoir un coup dans l’aile” can be used to describe a defective object or an inebriated person. It refers to a bird whose wing is damaged, making it impossible for it to fly. As a result, it can only stagger along the ground like a drunkard.
- Être rabat (colloquial)
English translation: Being buzzed
Also transcribed as “rabate”, “être rabat” is used to refer to excessive consumption of drugs and/or alcohol. The expression comes from the Arabic “rabat”, which literally means “discount” or “reduction”, implying that one has drunk so much that one is an inferior version of oneself.
- Se mettre minable (colloquial)
English translation: Making a fool of yourself (literal) / Being sloshed
Also used in sport as a synonym for “se dépenser sans compter” (to spend oneself without counting the cost), “se mettre minable” (to make oneself shabby) here means to drink alcohol until one is unworthy, until one is no longer presentable.
- Être plein (comme une barrique / comme une huître / comme un oeuf) (colloquial)
English translation: Being full (like a barrel / an oyster / an egg) (literal) / Being loaded
“Plein” (full) is used as a synonym for “bourré”, referring to the fact that you’re so full that you can’t drink anymore. The expression has given rise to a number of metaphors, such as “plein comme un barrique” (full as a barrel), “plein comme une huître” (full as an oyster) or “plein comme un œuf” (full as an egg).
- Être mort (soûl) (colloquial)
English translation: Being dead (literal) / Being embalmed
Also used to signify a state of extreme fatigue, “être mort” or “être mort-soûl” describes being so intoxicated, bordering on unconsciousness, that you feel more like a lifeless corpse than a living being. This has given rise to the expression “être un cadavre” (to be a corpse(), mostly used in the South of France to describe someone who is particularly drunk.
- Avoir les dents du fond qui baignent (colloquial)
English translation: Having the back teeth swimming (literal) / Being loaded
“Avoir les dents du fond qui baignent” refers to the uncomfortable feeling we get when we’ve had too much to drink. We get an aftertaste in our throat that makes us nauseous, as if we were filled to the brim with liquid around our molars.
- Se murger (prendre une murge) (colloquial)
English translation: Getting hammered
The expression for drunk in French has a very particular origin, since it refers to an old Parisian street, rue Alfonse-Murge, known for its many wine and spirits stores. “Se murger” meant going around the street’s bars until you couldn’t stand it anymore.
- Avoir des souliers à bascule (common)
English translation: Having rocking shoes (literal) / Being wrecked
“Avoir des souliers à bascule” simply refers to the precarious balance caused by an advanced state of inebriation, akin to having unstable shoes.
- Être beurré (comme une biscotte) (colloquial)
English translation: Being buttered like a rusk / Being toasted
Despite what you might think, “être beurré” doesn’t come from the analogy of spreading butter on bread. Originally, “se beurrer la tartine” was used as a synonym for “se bourrer la gueule” (where “tartine” serves as an equivalent for “gueule”) because of the similarity between the two words.
Over the years, the expression evolved into “beurré comme une biscotte” or “beurré comme un P’tit Lu” (buttered French biscuit).
- Être démâté (colloquial)
English translation: Being dismasted (literal) / Being wasted
According to its definition, “demâter” means “perdre son mât” (to lose one’s mast). It means being so drunk that you lose direction.
- Prendre une cuite (common)
English translation: Going on a drinking spree (literal) / Getting plastered
“Prendre une cuite” has its roots in the art of pottery. It refers to the kiln and the firing process, two essential elements in the firing of porcelain. The expression evokes heat and change of state, two intrinsic characteristics of inebriation.
- Se goudronner le vestibule (colloquial)
English translation: Tarring the hallway (literal) / Being loaded
“Se goudronner le vestibule” is a metaphor for drinking large quantities of alcohol with ease. The alcohol flows easily down the throat. The French language has many expressions with a similar meanings, such as “se graisser le toboggan” (grease the slide) or “se rincer la cloison” (rinse the septum).
- Voir les rats bleus (colloquial)
English translation: Seeing the blue rats (literal) / Being cockeyed
The expression for drunk in French is generally used after consuming any type of drug. Here, it refers to having drunk so much that you’re completely delirious to the point of visual hallucinations (such as seeing blue rats). This expression is super rare and almost no French will use it.
- Avoir la cervelle en terrine (colloquial)
English translation: Having your brain turn into mash (literal) / Being hangover
Terrine is a typical French dish made from a mixture of minced meat or fish. The expression “avoir la cervelle en terrine” means that you’ve had so much to drink that your brain is in pieces (no longer able to function normally).
- Avoir le casque à pointe (colloquial)
English translation: Having a spiked helmet (literal) / Being wrecked
“Avoir le casque à pointe” refers to the Prussian military helmet that was later used as a symbol of the German in France. As the helmet was considered particularly heavy, the expression meant having a severe headache as a result of too much alcohol.
- Être empégué (colloquial)
English translation: Being plastered
“Être empégué” is a typical expression from the South of France. The word “empéguer” comes from the Provençal word “pega”, meaning “poix” (a black resinous material derived from pine trees). To be “empégué” therefore means to be so intoxicated that you can barely move, like someone trapped in resin.
- Voir double (common)
English translation: Seeing double (literal) / Being plastered
“Voir double” refers to the impact of alcohol abuse on the eyes, blurring vision to the point of splitting it. This has given rise to a number of expressions echoing the initial observation, such as “rentrer à deux” (go home with two) or “avoir des lunettes en peau de saucisson” (having sausage-skin glasses).
- Être imbibé (common)
English translation: Being soaked (literal) / Being sloshed
Literally, the verb “imbiber” means “faire pénétrer un liquide dans une matière ou un corps” (to make a liquid penetrate a material or a body). Thus, the expression for drunk in French “être imbibié” (to be imbibed) refers to someone who has drunk so much that he or she is gorged with alcohol.
The expression “être bourré” in French reflects the pervasiveness of alcohol culture in French society. While it may seem amusing or harmless, it also raises questions about excessive alcohol consumption and its consequences. It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption, and to promote responsible drinking to safeguard our health and well-being.
Et voilà ! You’re now ready to introduce your friends to some new expressions at your next occasional French apero. And if you want to impress them even more, we strongly encourage you to check out our other article on the different ways of saying I don’t care in French.
Translated into English by Sacha