The Meaning of C’est LA Vie: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of the French term c’est la vie? This guide will provide you with all of the info you need on the expression c’est la vie, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the French phrase c’est la vie mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and The Hindu, the phrase c’est la vie, pronounced “se lah vee” is a French expression that means “such is life,” or “so it goes.” The literal translation from the French is “it is life” but people take this phrase in English to mean “that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” People usually use this phrase after a minor disappointment or setback as a form of acceptance. For example, if a young gymnast is disappointed that she lost at a gymnastics meet, her father might say, “C’est la vie. You win some, you lose some.” English speakers have adopted this phrase while retaining the French words to express acceptance in a  situation.

There are many different ways to say “such is life” in a plethora of different languages besides French! This list of translations for the phrase c’est la vie is provided by Word Sense.

  • Belarusian: такое жыццё‎ (takóje žyccjó)
  • Romanian: asta-i viața‎
  • Basque: horrelakoa da bizitza‎
  • Danish: sådan er livet‎, c’est la vie‎
  • Lithuanian: toks gyvenimas‎, toks jau gyvenimas‎
  • Hebrew: אֵלֶּה הַחַיִּים‎ (ele hakhayim)
  • Icelandic: svona er lífið‎
  • Latin: ita vita‎
  • Persian: زندگی همینه‎ (zendegi hamineh), دنیا همینه دیگه‎ (donyâ hamineh digeh), زندگی همین است‎ (zendegi hamin ast)
  • Bulgarian: такъв е животът‎ (takǎ̀v e živótǎt)
  • Korean: 그게 인생이야‎
  • Catalan: així és la vida‎
  • Finnish: sellaista se on‎, sellaista elämä on‎, minkäs teet‎, c’est la vie‎
  • Slovene: tako je življenje‎
  • Arabic: هٰذِهِ هِيَ الْحَيَاة‎
  • Polish: takie jest życie‎
  • Hungarian: ilyen az élet‎
  • Spanish: así es la vida‎
  • Navajo: iiná ʼéí ʼákótʼé‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 這就是生活‎, 这就是生活‎, 生活就是這樣‎, [[生活就是这样#, 生活就是这样]]‎
  • Macedonian: таков е животот‎ (tákov e žívotot)
  • Czech: takový je život‎, to je život‎
  • Greek: έτσι είναι η ζωή‎
  • Portuguese: assim é a vida‎
  • Georgian: ასეთია ცხოვრება‎
  • Cyrillic: такав је живот‎
  • French: la vie est ainsi faite‎
  • Ukrainian: таке життя‎ (také žyttjá)
  • Slovak: taký je život‎
  • Japanese: (informal) 人生はそういうものだ‎ (jinsei wa sō iu mono da), 人生はそういうものです‎ (jinsei wa sō iu mono desu), それが人生‎ (それがじんせい, sore ga jinsei)
  • Roman: takav je život‎
  • Dutch: zo is het leven‎
  • German: so ist das Leben‎
  • Swedish: sådant är livet‎, sån’t är livet‎
  • Low German: so is dat Leven‎
  • Italian: così è la vita‎
  • Norwegian: sånn er livet‎
  • Russian: такова́ жизнь‎
  • Mongolian: амьдрал бол амьдрал‎

What is the origin of the French phrase c’est la vie?

According to Dictionary, the French phrase c’est la vie was found in the French language centuries ago, but was adopted into a common saying in the English language by the 1880s. This has become a common way to say “that’s life!” in response to a minor setback.

What are synonyms for the French phrase c’est la vie?

There are many different ways that someone can say c’est la vie. All of these idioms are considered synonyms for the French phrase c’est la vie. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are wanting to avoid repeating yourself, if the person you are speaking with does not speak French, or if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms is provided by Thesaurus

  • that’s how the cookie crumbles
  • that’s life
  • it’s in the cards
  • que sera sera
  • that’s reality
  • oh well
  • it is fated
  • such is life
  • c’est la guerre
  • c’est comme ça
  • that’s life, that’s war
  • it is written
  • what will be will be
  • this is the life

How can the French phrase c’est la vie be used in a sentence?

The French phrase c’est la vie can be used in a wide variety of differencircumstnaces to express acceptance at a somewhat disappointing situation or circumstance. In this example, Jennifer is annoyed that her birthday party was ruined by the rain. She sulks indoors during what was supposed to be her tenth birthday pool party.

Dad: June gloom got you down?

Jenny: All of my friends were supposed to come over to have a pool party for my birthday. Now the decorations are all soggy, and so are the sandwiches, and my whole birthday is ruined. This is the worst day even.

Dad: Jenny, I know you’re upset, but c’est la vie. You can’t control the weather. How about this? We can invite your friends over for a move night, and then you guys can all go swimming tomorrow after a sleepover? The forecast says sunny clear skies tomorrow morning.

Jenny: Really?!

Here, Jenny’s father uses the phrase c’est la vie to express that the disappointing situation was inevitable. Jenny cannot control the weather or the fact that no one wants to swim in the rain. In this next scenario, Taylor did not get the part that she wanted in the school play. Her classmate Max comforts her.

Mark: Hey Taylor, what’s up?

Taylor: Just a little disappointed about the cast list, but c’est la vie. I’m trying to look on the bright side. I’ll have a lot more time than I did as the lead in the play last semester. 

Overall, the French term c’est la vie is used to mean “such is life” to express acceptance at a disappointing situation. This phrase is used among both French speakers and English speakers. Though English speakers will sometimes use the English translation, it is just as common to keep the original French.