Quebec French profanity
The literal translation of the French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 verb sacrer is "to consecrate
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

". However, in Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

 it is the proper word for the form of profanity
Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

used in Quebec French
Quebec French
Quebec French , or Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language in Canada, in its formal and informal registers. Quebec French is used in everyday communication, as well as in education, the media, and government....

. The noun form is sacre.

Quebec French, the main variety of Canadian French
Canadian French
Canadian French is an umbrella term referring to the varieties of French spoken in Canada. French is the mother tongue of nearly seven million Canadians, a figure constituting roughly 22% of the national population. At the federal level it has co-official status alongside English...

, uses a number of the same types of foul language as in standard French, dealing with sex and excrement (such as merde, "shit
Shit is usually considered vulgar and profane in Modern English. As a noun it refers to fecal matter and as a verb it means to defecate or defecate in; in the plural it means diarrhea...

"). These are usually rather mild, and stronger profanity is expressed using words and expressions related to Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 and its liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

. This usage of religious words to express profanity is also present but to a lesser extent in Acadian French
Acadian French
Acadian French , is a regionalized dialect of Canadian French. It is spoken by the francophone population of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, by small minorities in areas in the Gaspé region of eastern Quebec, by small groups of francophones in Prince Edward Island, in several tiny pockets...

, mostly spoken in the Maritime provinces east of Quebec.


The sacres originated in the early 19th century in a time when the social control exerted by the Catholic clergy was increasingly a source of frustration. One of the oldest sacres is sacrament, which can be thought of in Quebec French as equivalent to "goddamn it" in English. It was in use as far back as the 1830s as far as is known. The word "sacrer" in its current meaning is believed to come from the expression Ne dites pas ça, c'est sacré. ("Don't say that, it is sacred/holy"). Eventually, sacrer started to refer to the words francophone Québécois were not supposed to say. This is more than probably related to the commandment
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Exodus 20:7). The influence and social importance of the Catholic religion at that time allowed sacres to become powerful forms of profanity.

As a result of the Quiet Revolution
Quiet Revolution
The Quiet Revolution was the 1960s period of intense change in Quebec, Canada, characterized by the rapid and effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state and a re-alignment of politics into federalist and separatist factions...

 in the 1960s, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 in Quebec has declined. This has had no effect, however, on the use of sacres, which is as widespread as ever.

List of common sacres

These sacres are commonly given in a phonetic spelling to indicate the differences in pronunciation from the original word, several of which, notably the deletion of final consonants and change of [ɛ] to [a] before /r/ are typical of highly informal Quebec French
Quebec French
Quebec French , or Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language in Canada, in its formal and informal registers. Quebec French is used in everyday communication, as well as in education, the media, and government....

  • baptême - "baptism
    In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

  • simonaque (simonaque) - "simonaque, simonaque n'est pas à la bonne place"
  • câlice (calice) - "chalice
    Chalice (cup)
    A chalice is a goblet or footed cup intended to hold a drink. In general religious terms, it is intended for drinking during a ceremony.-Christian:...

  • calvaire - "Calvary
    Calvary or Golgotha was the site, outside of ancient Jerusalem’s early first century walls, at which the crucifixion of Jesus is said to have occurred. Calvary and Golgotha are the English names for the site used in Western Christianity...

  • ciarge (cierge) - "votive
    Votive candle
    A votive candle or prayer candle is a small candle, typically white or beeswax yellow, intended to be burnt as a votive offering in a religious ceremony. It now also refers to a standard size of candle two inches high by one and a half inches diameter, of any color or scent.-Christian use:Candles...

     or Paschal candle
    Paschal candle
    The Paschal candle is a large, white candle used at liturgy in the Western Rites of Christianity . A new Paschal candle is blessed and lit every year at Easter, and is used throughout the Paschal season which is during Easter and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and...

  • ciboire - "ciborium
    thumb|250px|[[Silver-gilt]] ciboriumA ciborium is a vessel, normally in metal...

    " or "pyx
    A pyx or pix is a small round container used in the Catholic, Old Catholic and Anglican Churches to carry the consecrated host , to the sick or invalid or those otherwise unable to come to a church in order to receive Holy Communion...

    ", the receptacle in which the host is stored
  • crisse (Christ) - "Christ
    Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

  • maudit - "damn"
  • ostie (hostie) - "host"
  • sacrament (sacrement) - "Sacrament
    A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

  • tabarnac (tabernacle) - "tabernacle
    Church tabernacle
    A tabernacle is the fixed, locked box in which, in some Christian churches, the Eucharist is "reserved" . A less obvious container, set into the wall, is called an aumbry....

  • viarge (vierge) - "the Virgin Mary"

Examples of phrase:
Y fait frette en tabarnak!
Caliss ferme ta gueule!
Ostie que t'es cave!
Ma t'en crisser une mon ostie de tabarnak!
Estie que tu pues,crisse e tabarnak!

Mild forms

Most sacres have modified, milder euphemistic
A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience...

 forms (see minced oath
Minced oath
A minced oath is an expression based on a profanity or a taboo term that has been altered to reduce the objectionable characteristics.Many languages have such expressions...

). Such forms are not usually considered nearly as rude as the original. (An English language example of this would be to say mad as heck instead of mad as hell.) Many of the euphemistic forms are only similar-sounding religious terms, so are considered not to denigrate the Church.
  • baptême: batinse, batêche, bateau
  • câlice: câline, câlif, câlique, câline de bine, câlibine, décâlisser (verb: get outa here, beat-up)
  • calvaire: calvâsse, calvinsse, calvinouche, calvinus, calvinisse, calverasse
  • ciboire: cibolle, cibollaque, ciboulette
  • crisse: cristie, crime, criff, cliss, christophe, Christophe Colomb, crimpuff (from the English "cream puff"), décrisser (verb: get outa here, beat-up)
  • maudit: maudine, mautadine, mautadit, mautadite, maudite marde, moutarde
  • ostie: titi, esti, estifie, ostique, ostine, sti
  • sacrament: sacrefice, sacramouille, sacre bleu, Sacramento, sacrament dcaliss de siboullette
  • tabarnac: tabarnouche ,batarnac (merge of bâtar and tabarnac.) ,tabarslaque , simonac, tabarouette, tabarnache, barnak, tabarnane, tabeurn, batarnak, tabouère (merge of tabarnac and ciboire), détabarnaker, kanrabat

Also considered milder swears:
  • bâtard: bastard
  • mozusse: Moses
    Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

  • torrieu: (tort à Dieu) Harm to God
  • marde: shit, used in conjunction with other words, sometimes swears: ostie de marde, tas de marde, mange donc un char de marde, or château de marde

Sometimes older people unable to bring themselves to swear with church words or their derivatives used to make up phrases that sound innocuous like cinq six boîtes de tomates vartes (literally, "five six boxes of green tomatoes", varte being slang for verte, "green"). This phrase when pronounced quickly by a native speaker sounds like saint-ciboire de tabarnac ("holy ciborium of the tabernacle"). Another example of a benign word that is church sounding is coltord, which was simply an anglicism for cold-tar, but pronounced just so, sounds as like a merged câlisse and tort (harm).


A very strong way to express anger or frustration is to use the words tabarnac, sacrament, and câlice . Depending on the context and the tone of the phrases, it might make everybody quiet, but some people use those words to add rhythm or emphasis to sentences.

Usually, more than one of these words is used in an expression. The words are simply connected with de (of), without any restrictions. Long strings of invective can be connected in this way, and the resulting expression doesn't have to have any concrete meaning; for example, Mon ostie de saint-sacrament de câlice de crisse! (literally: my host of (the) holy sacrament of (the) chalice of Christ). Non-religious terms may also be strung together in this way, as in mon crisse de char est brisé, tabarnac de câlisse (literally: my Christ of (a) car is broken, tabernacle of (the) Chalice). In areas where English is also commonly spoken, English expletives are often inserted. "fuck ostie" (fuck (the) host) is common around the Outaouais and Ottawa-Gatineau area.

The word fucké (with meanings varying from "crazy, disturbed" to "broken down"; cf. English screwed up) is much milder than "fuck
"Fuck" is an English word that is generally considered obscene which, in its most literal meaning, refers to the act of sexual intercourse. By extension it may be used to negatively characterize anything that can be dismissed, disdained, defiled, or destroyed."Fuck" can be used as a verb, adverb,...

" is in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, and is routinely used in, for instance, TV sitcom dialogue. The same goes for chit (shit) (which in Quebec French is used only as an interjection expressing dismay, never as the noun for excrement). When used as a verb, "va chier" (literally: go shit), it does not mean to excrete but rather to "fuck off". When used as past tense chié , it is used exaclty as "fucké" : "mes souliers sont chié, MY shoes are fucked" Even English-language dialogue containing these words can appear on Quebec French-language television without bleeping: for example, when, in 2003, punk
Punk subculture
The punk subculture includes a diverse array of ideologies, and forms of expression, including fashion, visual art, dance, literature, and film, which grew out of punk rock.-History:...

s rioted in Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 because a concert by the band The Exploited
The Exploited
The Exploited are a Scottish punk band from the second wave of UK punk, formed in 1979. Originally a street punk band, they transformed into a faster hardcore punk band with a heavy political influence. From about 1987 on they changed into a crossover thrash band...

 had been cancelled, TV news reporters solemnly read out a few lyrics and song titles from their album Fuck the System. However, the same is not true of Quebec's English-language television stations, which follow the same guidelines as other stations in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...


Non-profane uses

A slang term with the preposition en means "a lot of": d'la bouffe en tabarnac (or en crisse, etc.) means "a lot of food", similar to English constructs such as fuckload or shitload.

Sacres are often used as verbs too. For example, câlisser une volée means "to beat the fuck out of", or more literally "to give a beating" where câlisser is used as a stronger form of "to give" (donner in French). There are constructions like décrisser which means to leave or to destroy, using the dé prefix, which is about separation. Others include, s'en câlicer or s'en crisser ("not give a damn"), sacrer son camp ("leave", "run away", literally "consecrate the camp while leaving it" -- actually it looks like the Québécois just replaced the French foutre with calisser/crisser/sacrer. Fous-moi le camp! -> Décrisse! / Sacre le camp!, Foutre une baffe -> Calisser une clacque, je m'en fous--> je m'en sacre/je m'en calice/je m'en contre-fous), décâlisser. Some are even found as adverbs: crissement meaning very or extremely as in this is so darned sweet.

These expressions are found less commonly in literature, but rappers and other singers often use crisse and câlice as a rhyme. More traditional singers also use these words, for example, Plume Latraverse
Plume Latraverse
Plume Latraverse is a prolific singer, musician, songwriter and author from Quebec. His career spans over 30 years; Latraverse is probably one of the most influential names in Quebec counterculture.-Albums:...


One fine example of the use of sacres as different word classes is a dialogue by Les Cyniques called Le cours de sacres. The phrase Jules, étant irrité, a expulsé violemment Jacques qui était en colère ("Jules, who was irritated, violently ejected Jacques who was angry") becomes Le sacrament qui était en calvaire a calissé dehors l'ostie en tabarnac.

Sacres outside Quebec French

The use of liturgical profanity is not unique to Quebec French. In Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, although to a lesser extent, some analogue words are in use: in particular "ostia" (host) and (more so in the past) "sacramento" are relatively common expressions in the North/East, which are lighter (and a little less common) than the typical blasphemies in use in Italy like "porco Dio" (pig god) and "porca Madonna" (see: Italian profanity
Italian profanity
Italian profanity refers to a set of words considered blasphemous or inflammatory in the Italian language....

). Also the process of modifying the terms in euphemistic equivalents is in use in Italy: for example "ostia" is commonly modified in "osteria". The word "sacramento" has also produced the verb "sacramentare", which colloquially means to use blasphemy.

A few other dialects in the world also feature this kind of profanity, for instance the expression Kruzifix noch einmal in Austro-Bavarian
Bavarian , also Austro-Bavarian, is a major group of Upper German varieties spoken in the south east of the German language area.-History and origin:...

 or Krucifix in Czech. La hostia is an expletive expression in some Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 dialects. In Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, hòstia is used and is frequently abbreviated to osti. Spanish also uses me cago en ... ("I shit on...") followed by "God", "the blessed chalice", "the Virgin" and other terms, religious or not.
It can be shortened to just "¡La virgen!" or "¡Copón bendito!" ("Blessed chalice!"). Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

, the profanity anafura mă-tii! ("Your mother's host!") is sometimes used along with Easter, Christ, Cross, Commemoration ("parastas"), sacred oil lamp ('tu-i candela 'mă-sii), God, Church etc. .

Sheila Fischman
Sheila Fischman
Sheila Leah Fischman, CM is a Canadian translator who specializes in the translation of works of contemporary Quebec literature....

's translation of La Guerre, Yes Sir! (published under that title in both French and English, but meaning roughly "War, you bet!") by Roch Carrier
Roch Carrier
Roch Carrier, OC is a Canadian novelist and author of "contes" . He is among the best known Quebec writers in English Canada....

 leaves many sacres in the original Quebec French, since they have no real equivalent in English. She gives a brief explanation and history of these terms in her introduction, including a few not listed here.

Irish Catholics of old employed a similar practice, whereby 'ejaculation
Ejaculation (grammar)
In grammar, an ejaculation is an utterance that expresses a feeling outside of the normal language structure. Often, but not always, it is an exclamation, most often consisting of a single word, either an interjection or a profanity or both.Examples:...

s' were used to express frustration without cursing or profaning (taking the Lord's name in vain). This typically involved the recitation of a rhyming couplet, where a shocked person might say 'Jesus who, for love of me/Died on the Cross at Calvary' instead of 'Jesus!' This is often abbreviated simply to 'Jesus-hoo-fer-luv-a-me', an expression still heard among elderly Irish people. Also: 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph!'

See also

  • Joual
    Joual is the common name for the linguistic features of basilectal Quebec French that are associated with the French-speaking working class in Montreal which has become a symbol of national identity for a large number of artists from that area...

  • Sacred-profane dichotomy
    Sacred-profane dichotomy
    French sociologist Émile Durkheim considered the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane to be the central characteristic of religion: "religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden." In Durkheim's theory, the...

External links

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