For centuries, French writers have searched for the meaning of life, in good times and in bad. Seeking happiness, solitude, or solace, there are many beautiful French proverbs about life and living to the max. And the flip side of it, of course, death.
Whether you are a student of the French language, a philosopher or someone seeking a bit of comfort, I hope there is something here for everyone. So without further ado, here are the best French quotes about life and death.
1. Chaque jour de ta vie est un feuillet de ton histoire que tu écris.
Translation: Every day of your life is a sheet of your story that you write.
If you think of life as a diary, this lovely French quote encourages you to take that blank sheet of paper and fill it with joy.
You write your own story, n’est-ce pas?
2. Une vie trop tranquille est une mer morte.
Translation: A life too quiet is a dead sea.
This French proverb refers to the Dead Sea in the Middle East, which has too much salt to support life.
We need entertainment, love, action, and so much more to make things interesting, and life worth living. In other words, don’t be boring dahhling!
3. Bon feu, bonne mine, c’est la moitié de la vie.
Translation: A nice fire, good looks (complexion), that’s half the life.
Bonne mine is a bit difficult to translate because it doesn’t literally mean someone is beautiful/handsome, but rather that they look lively and cheerful.
Sometimes the ability to move forward is half the battle. Put on a smile and light a fire inside you, and look rested and happy. Make the best of a bad hand at the game of life.
4. Une vie honorable est une vie éternelle.
Translation: An honorable life is an eternal life.
In other words, live a life that is filled with good deeds and your name will live forever.
5. La vie est une ivresse continuelle : le plaisir passe, le mal de tête reste.
Translation: Life is a continual intoxication: the pleasure passes, the headache remains.
The French quote asks, who needs alcohol when life can bring so much pleasure. Until the next morning of course. (FYI, in French a hangover is called une gueule de bois.)
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6. Un brin de folie égaye la vie.
Translation: A touch of madness brightens up life.
At times a bit of crazy can make life really worth living. We don’t have to be practical all the time, do we?
7. La vie est un voyage au milieu de la nuit.
Translation: Life is a journey in the middle of the night.
Navigating in the dark, without a flashlight, life never comes with a map and directions, does it? This French proverb knows that life is not always easy.
8. La vie est un grand drame, il faut le bien jouer. Mais ce qu’il faut surtout, c’est le bien dénouer.
Translation: Life is a great drama, you have to play it well; but what is necessary above all is to untie it well.
You can tie yourself in knots and have plenty of action in your life, but at a certain point, it is important to be true to yourself and remain grounded.
9. La vie est triste quand on est seul, elle est bien plus agréable quand on est deux.
Translation: Life is sad when you are alone, it is much more pleasant when there are two.
10. La vie est un arbre dont le fruit est souvent amer.
Translation: Life is a tree whose fruit is often bitter.
Life doesn’t always serve up roses, and we do sometimes have to get through the bad stuff to get to the other side.
11. Rien n’abrège tant la vie que les pas perdus, les paroles oiseuses et les pensées inutiles.
Translation: Nothing shortens life so much as lost steps, idle words and useless thoughts.
In other words, this French proverb about life encourages us to put aside the negative thoughts, the unfulfilled promises and the time-wasting strategies. It is time to move onwards and upwards.
12. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait.
Translation: If youth only knew, if age only could.
As the saying goes in English, youth is wasted on the young! Here is to looking for that eternal fountain of youth to power through.
13. Il faut vivre comme on pense, sans quoi l’on finira par penser comme on a vécu.
Translation: You have to live the way you think, otherwise you’ll end up thinking the way you lived.
Live life to the max, without holding back. Otherwise, one day you just might regret it.
14. Pour exécuter de grandes choses, il faut vivre comme si on ne devait jamais mourir.
Translation: In order to achieve great things, we must live as though we were never going to die.
This French quote insists that we not be afraid to make a move. That that big leap and risk it all to win big.
15. La vie est un beau rêve, mais ne vous réveillez pas.
Translation: Life is a beautiful dream, but don’t wake up.
The beauty of life is celebrated in this French quote, with all the awe and wonder of every day lived well.
16. La vie est un torrent courant vers un abîme.
Translation: Life is a torrent flowing towards an abyss.
Like a raft on the Grand Rapids, headed towards a destination that you cannot turn around from.
17. La vie est un flambeau toujours prêt à s’éteindre.
Translation: Life is a torch always ready to be extinguished.
The fragility of life must never be underestimated. It can be snuffed out in an instant, so guard it preciously.
18. La vie est un combat perdu d’avance.
Translation: Life is a battle, lost in advance.
This French proverb realizes where we are all headed, all of us equal. After all, everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time.
19. En face de la mort, on comprend mieux la vie.
Translation: In the face of death, we understand life better.
The deathbed declarations where it all becomes too clear. This French quote asks to look for clarity and the true essence of self before it gets to that point.
20. La mort ne surprend point le sage: Il est toujours prêt à partir.
Translation: Death never takes the wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go.
When you know it is your time, you know it is your time. (At least for the lucky ones.)
21. Le monde est un spectacle, la vie un passage; tu es venu, tu as vu, puis tu t’es en allé.
Translation: The world is a spectacle, life a passage; you came, you saw, then you went away.
This French quote about death references a longer passage by that great English playright, William Shakespeare in his play “As you like it” (extract below).
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school….
And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow…
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
So which is your favorite French proverb? If you enjoyed this article, you may like to read more famous French inspirational quotes, as well as quotes about food, wine, and love. Because what could be more French than that!?
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