Friday’s French – epouvantable epouvantail

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It should really be épouvantable épouvantail but WordPress (the blog template I use) doesn’t deal with accents in titles well, so I try to avoid them.


An épouvantail (épouvantail à oiseaux, in its full form) is a scarecrow, from épouvante which means terror, from the Latin expavens, entis, fear which also gave the Italian spaventare. I can’t think of any related English words, which is most unusual with all the French-based borrowings due to the Norman invasion.

The adjective from épouvante is épouvantable meaning dreadful or appalling. Quelle histoire épouvantable means what a shocking/appalling story.

And, of course, a film d’épouvante is a horror film and a roman d’épouvante a horror story.

I thought a post on épouvante was sort of appropriate considering that yesterday was Halloween! And if you’d like to know more about Halloween in France, you might like to click on the post I wrote last year.


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8 Responses to Friday’s French – epouvantable epouvantail

  1. Susan Walter says:

    I knew the word for scarecrow, but I’d never thought about its etymology. I had no idea it came from a word for terror.

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      There are a lot of scarecrows in France and I find them fascinating. This one, in particular, looked as though it might terrorise any crow. I’ve been told that crows are protected. Is that so?

      • Susan Walter says:

        Crows are not protected as far as I know, nor are rooks or jackdaws (both crow family). It’s mostly rooks you see in the fields and they are the ones who form big colonies in the poplar plantations. The hunters periodically have a go at them, not because they are pests but because they are noisy and annoy people. I don’t know why there is so much antipathy towards crows. It’s the pigeons you need to scare off the fields. They are the ones eating the seeds. The rooks and crows are eating pest insect larvae mostly.

        • Rosemary Kneipp says:

          Thanks Susan. I don’t know where Jean Michel got the information about the crows from. Is a corbeau a rook or a crow?

          • Susan Walter says:

            JM is half right. Le Grand corbeau is protected. In English they are called Ravens. Le Corbeau freux is not protected — that’s Rooks. I checked out the situation for all the Corvid species. There are 9 in France, 4 of which are protected. Protected = Grand corbeau (Raven), Crave à bec rouge (Chough), Chocard à bec jaune (Alpine Chough), Cassenoix moucheté (Spotted Nutcracker). Not protected = Corbeau freux (Rook), Corneille noire (Carrion Crow), Chouca (Jackdaw), Geai des chênes (Jay), Pie bavarde (Magpie).

  2. Rosemary Kneipp says:

    Thank you very much. I will be able to tell him that.

  3. Conrad says:

    Avec les conditions épouvantable à Blois il faudrait sûrement construire une épouvantail. (-:

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