top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
Explore
arrow down

‘Casse-tête’: this French phrase is a conundrum or head-scratcher

We explore when to use this useful expression if a puzzle is ‘breaking your head’

A 'casse-tête' is a problem that is difficult (or even impossible) to solve Pic: Andrey Burmakin

Casse-tête translates as brain teaser, puzzle, or more broadly, challenge.

A literal translation of casse-tête is 'head breaker'.

In everyday French, a casse-tête is a puzzle game that can be played by one or more players.

Read more: Thousands play Wordle-like word game inspired by old French TV show

These include mechanical puzzles such as Rubik’s cubes, number games such as sodoku and even card games such as solitaire.

While such games are played for fun and entertainment, there is also an element of logical or mathematical deduction that can be challenging for the mind too.

The French expression refers to this mental challenge. 

In this sense, a casse-tête is a problem that is difficult (or even impossible) to solve, or a problem that is so annoying it becomes a headache.

It is often used to describe a situation in life where you cannot see a way through or do not know what to do for the best.

Related articles

Four French words to fill gaps in vocabulary that mean 'the thing'

Five French phrases with same English meaning - just swap the animal

Au pif: How many of these French estimation phrases do you know?

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France