c’est la vie
[sey lah vee]
What does c'est la vie mean?
In French, c'est la vie means "that's life," borrowed into English as idiom to express acceptance or resignation, much like Oh well.
- c'est la guerre
- shit happens
- so it goes
- such is life
Examples of c’est la vie
Where does c’est la vie come from?
C’est la vie literally means “this is the life” in French, taken as “that’s life.” Found in French well before, the expression was borrowed into English by the 1880s. While modern French speakers certainly understand the phrase, c’est la vie is especially common among English speakers, used either as a handy or fancy way to say “That’s life!” especially in the face of minor setbacks.
The idiom is so widely recognized that it titles various works in popular culture. In 1965, duo Sonny & Cher released “Sing c’est la vie” while the band Stereophonics came out with their own “C’est La Vie” in 2015.
A number of English-language books about French life and culture incorporate c’est la vie in their titles, such as the 2017 self-help book C’est La Vie: The French Art of Letting Go.
While common in English, the French also take inspiration from c’est la vie, too, such as French rapper Booba’s 2012 “C’est la vie” or 2017 French comedy Le Sens de la fête, released for English-speaking audiences as C’est la vie!
Who uses c’est la vie?
In everyday speech and writing, people usually issue a c’est la vie to shrug off slight disappointments or signal resigned acceptance of some unpleasant affairs or facts.
Know your Meme
Dave spills apple juice on his favourite shirt;
John: oh well, c’est la vie
Dave: la vie
John: fucking god damnit.
— False Trollian (@FalseTrollian) June 1, 2018
Going through all my twitch whispers… I really miss talking with everyone. When there are streams, I’m at work and when I’m home and able to talk, everyone is busy. C’est la vie 😔
— Ashlee (@Snoelle9) June 2, 2018
Occaionally, people mistake c’est la vie for “This is the life!”, an expression of contentment.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of c’est la vie like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of c’est la vie that will help our users expand their word mastery.