How to say "sign" in French + 8 things you can't do in Lourdes, France


In southwest France: the commune of Lourdes (located in the Hautes-Pyrénees)

Bonjour! It is great to be home after vacation, never mind that one of us brought back sinusitis as a souvenir... but that isn't why today's edition is titled "guérir"... Read on in the following column for more...

guérir (geh-reer) verb

    : to cure, to make better; to heal

[from the Frankish "warjan" (to protect)]

French definition*: "délivrer d'un mal physique ou mental" (to deliver from a physical or mental illness)

*French definition from "Le Petit Larousse Illustre"

Audio file: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronouce today's verb and its French definition: Download guerir.mp3 . Download guerir.wav

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

We hadn't set out as pilgrims, but became so by circumstance. For our annual vacances estivales,* this family of four was headed west to a campground along the Atlantic coast of France when signs to the sacred town Lourdes began to appear--like the Virgin Mary herself--amidst fields of corn, and roadsides teaming with wild lilacs.

"We HAVE to stop! Lourdes--c'est à ne pas manquer*!" I said to my husband, quickly briefing him on the nineteenth-century French nun* who is said to have seen the Virgin Mary there in a grotto. Since the famous apparition, pilgrims have flocked to the southern French town from all four "coins du monde"* in search of mental or physical healing.

Jean-Marc hesitated over my request, reminding me of our campsite's check-in policy and the hurry that we were in to comply with it. But when he went on to add that, well, that didn't leave a lot of time to visit the holy town.... I nodded my head excitedly, only half-heeding his warning about a limited time frame. What I didn't tell my husband was that time was not a problem -- for a spiritual awakening can happen in the blink of an eye....

*     *     *

...more on Friday. To comment on today's word or edition, click this link. If you happen to know today's verb "to cure" in another language (Spanish, Russian, Italian, German, Swedish, Danish, Portuguese... Tagalog?...), please add it to the comments box. Mille mercis!:


les vacances (fpl) estivales = summer vacation; à ne pas manquer = a must see; nineteenth-century French nun = Bernadette Soubirous; coins du monde = corners of the world

Provendi Revolving Soaps (you'll find these in the public restrooms at Lourdes!): "The practical and very neat Provendi revolving soap fixtures have adorned public school washrooms throughout France for years. Now they're turning up in the most chic places. Lightly scented, vegetable-based 300g soaps snap (new style) or bolt (original) on to the chrome-plated bracket rod and rotate with the motion of the hands."

French film: In "The Song of Bernadette" Jennifer Jones plays the legendary French peasant who claimed to have dialogues with the Virgin Mary at a Lourdes grotto in 1858.

Book: "The Song of Bernadette"."Franz Werfel, an Austrian Jew, wrote this historical novel about a Catholic saint to commemorate his narrow escape from the Nazis via Lourdes." --Audiofile.

Children's book: Saint Bernadette Soubirous: Light in the Grotto

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language ...

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Bravo Kristin. I was wondering whether or not y'all had made it to the coast. To others reading this, I made a train trip along the Atlantic coast in '05 going from France to Spain. Beautiful scenery.


in the blink of an eye: when Charles Péguy prayed a prayer he learned as a child, he was suddenly Christian again - for the first time.


curar = to cure, to heal in Spanish.There is also, remediar, to remedy,( to free from risk.)


Bienvenue Kirstin,
I have missed your mailing. As a child I was enthralled with the story of Bernadette of Lourdes, I look forwrd to Vendredi.

Patricia Prestel

Thanks for this. My mother's maiden name was Sourbier (pronounced like "sour beer" in the U.S) Some of her family members were from Alsace. Anyway, Bernadette Soubirous was a distant relative of my mother's. For some reason the spelling was
changed to Sourbier. So my mom and her three sisters lived as
the "Sourbeers."


Thank you for the welcome back and for the translation: keep them coming!

Fred - Merci beaucoup for the info about Charles Péguy. Off now to continue reading about the poet whose mother worked as a chair-stuffer to support her child:

Frances Enriquez

It tickles me that Tagalog was included!

In Tagalog:
"gamutin" (to cure); the root word is "gamot" (medicine).

Also, "gumaling" (to heal; to get better). This can also mean "to improve" - "s'améliorer"?



In Italian, guarire


Many thanks for the Tagalog translation! I'm glad you were tickled to see the Tagalog request. I was born in the Philippines. As for the language request... a reader wrote in several years ago, asking where to find a "Tagalog Word-A-Day"... maybe, thanks to your note(s), one can find it here :-)

...back to my Tagalog vocab lesson: gamutin, gamot... (hey, those sound French to me!)

Mary - grazie for "guarire" (oh dear, is "grazie" correct?)


I remember vividly watching "Song of Bernadette" on TV when I was a child. Not a grotto any longer, the church (cathedral?) is very beautiful. I'm glad you and family had a chance to go, and took it!


Hola a todos!
There is also another translation for guérir in spanish: SANAR = to heal
When it comes to spiritual healing, the best translation is sanar - sanación (healing)
p.s. excuse me if I make mistakes in english or french... my life goes between 3 languages: spanish (my native language), english (now I live in the USA) and french (my husband's native language)... so things can get a little chaotic in my mind :)


Looking forward to reading more about your experience! To cure in Russian is вылечивать (vy-lay-chi-vat').

Annette Heath

St. Bernadette - I well remember the movie, Song of Bernadette. My three French aunts were all nuns, members of the order of Les Soeurs de Sainte Croix. The Mother House is in Montreal, though they were born and raised in New Hampshire - in a French-speaking home. They used to talk to me of St. Bernadette when I was a child. I would love to visit Lourdes. No wonder you were so anxious to stop and visit! I'm anxious to hear the rest of the story. I think to "heal" is the best word as it can mean so many things other than illness...i.e. grief, which can take a long time.

Mette Smith

Hi Kristin:
Love the story today! Wanted to share with you that in Danish, "to cure" or "to heal" is "at helbrede".


Lilacs bloomed months ago. Could these be butterfly bush (Buddleia)? Another plant to add to your lexique.


Can't wait to read the rest of your post, Kristin. We stopped in Lourdes, too but en route to Biarritz for le surfing. I managed to a few bottles of holy water but no where near the Grotto...too crowded, long snaking lines of people

Julie Schorr

In Dutch, you say "ik ben genesen" or "I am cured". It sounds like a lovely camping trip! I am glad your words are back now, just in time for school!
Julie Schorr
San Diego, California


Kristin - don't miss Les Grottes de Betharan while you are in that area. I took my students there years ago -- it was FANTASTIQUE!!!



I have visited Lourdes and the grotto is still there - to the right of the church under the hill. The miraculous spring still flows and can be seen in the floor under a glass cover. The sick are washed in this water and you can collect bottles of the water to take home to bless your families. I'm sure Kristin will describe all this better than me - it's 25 years since I was there. I loved the sight of the walking sticks hanging above the grotto - symbols of many cures at Lourdes.


My German was minimal when I was in high school and that was never-mind-how-many years ago, so this may well be wrong, but I think the German is "heilen."

Just for grins I looked it up in Welsh. My mother was Welsh, though she didn't speak it very well. It's a very difficult language. Here it is: "meddyginiaethu." I can't begin to imagine how you go about conjugating that!


In arabic, to heal is "sah' or "yishfee." That's the closest I can get. I look forward to hearing more about your vacances!
A bientot! Victoria

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)