Porter la poisse

Most of the time, we're thankful for Fridays. However sometimes, Friday falls on the 13th, making it un vendredi treize and a day of sheer panic for the superstitious. Add a black cat around the corner and you have a day that porte la poisse. In English, it brings bad luck.

Porter la poisse is an informal expression. In a more formal setting, you would use the literal translation of bringing bad luck, which is: porter malheur.

If someone is bringing bad luck to someone else, you will say porter la poisse à quelqu'un d'autre, or use the reflexive il me (te, lui, nous, vous, leur) porte la poisse.

You could also hear avoir la poisse to mean having bad luck over a long period of time.

Now, where does that odd-sounding word poisse come from?


La poisse comes from the word la poix, which is a sticky glue made from pine resin. In the Middle Ages, the tar-like substance was used to waterproof and seal the underside of boats. The action of smearing it became the verb poisser. This in turn gave us the deverbal noun la poisse. Today the word is only used figuratively in the expression porter la poisse or avoir la poisse.

What does that glue have to do with misfortune, we may wonder? People observed that, once applied, this viscous substance was incredibly difficult to remove. If you ever accidentally stepped in tar and tracked it everywhere, you get an idea of the mess it can create. The stickiness of la poisse then became associated with the belief that bad luck stuck to people, following them around and ruining their lives. In other words, la poisse brings trouble.

Interestingly, the idiom is often used in sports, and particularly in competitive cycling, with phrases such as la poisse le poursuit - "le" being an athlete who was supposed to win and doesn't. lt is clearly not his fault. He just has la poisse.


Au Japon, les numéro 4 et 9 portent la poisse.

In Japan, numbers 4 nd 9 bring bad luck.

Arrête avec tes histoires d'Halloween. Tu vas finir par nous porter la poisse!

Stop with your Halloween stories. You'll end up jinxing us!

Quelle poisse!

What rotten luck!