‘Les Intraduisibles’ : Frileux
Don’t you think that the adjective frileux, with its harsh ‘f’ and tremulous ‘r’, evokes the exact feeling of a shiver, and then captures it on paper? This word is, aptly, used to describe a person who is very sensitive to, or afraid of the cold. It originates from the Latin adjective frigorosus, meaning ‘chilly’, ‘cold’ or ‘glacial’, and can be found in nominal form, in the literary term frilosité. Frileux can also be used to describe someone who has a reserved or timid attitude towards an action or an event, an alternative meaning which conjures up images of a person shivering at the thought of something that they find alarming or unpleasant. It is therefore a synonym of the word timoré (‘timorous’, ‘timid’), and the opposite of words such as téméraire (‘audacious’ or ‘daring’).
It is very difficult to translate this word into English, as one would need a whole phrase to convey its meaning. It may be rendered as ‘someone who feels the cold’, or ‘someone who has a faint-hearted/timid attitude’, but there is no single word which captures the physical feel of the cold within the description of the feeling or sensation.