Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Borrowing from French


affreux pl (plural only)

  1. A group of particularly brutal mercenaries who were active in Africa and Asia during the 1960s.
    • 1972, Jean-Claude Willame, Patrimonialism and Political Change in the Congo, →ISBN, page 74:
      As one Belgian journalist wrote: The affreux ["frightful ones"] are outstanding in combat.
    • 1998, John Sturrock, The Word from Paris: Essays on Modern French Thinkers and Writers, →ISBN:
      I could no longer find anything affected in that long smooth white face but an extreme kindness and a sort of obstinate candour; Vian was as Herv in his detestation of the affreux [the frightful ones] as in loving what he loved.
    • 2003, Máire O'Brien, The same age as the state, page 249:
      These were mostly, but not exclusively, members of the Baluba tribe and had fled the persecution of Munongo's mercenary affreux and their black rank-and-file.
    • 2010, Martin Windrow, Our Friends Beneath the Sands, →ISBN:
      It takes a rather wilful ignorance to refuse to recognize the essential difference between, say, the affreux of mid-twentieth-century Africa and the Royal Gurkha Rifles, though both could loosely be described as mercenaries.
    • 2014, Joseph Finder, The Zero Hour, →ISBN:
      He had once been one of the dreaded affreux, the “frightful ones,” the white freelance soldiers who helped keep dictators in power throughout Africa and Asia.
    • 2015, Tor Sellström, Africa in the Indian Ocean: Islands in Ebb and Flow, →ISBN, page 169:
      France's return to Comoros was, above all, conspicuous through the actions of the mercenary leader Bob Denard and his team of affreux ('dreadful').

Usage notes[edit]

Often, these mercenaries were called les affreux, using the French definite article.


affreux (comparative more affreux, superlative most affreux)

  1. (rare) Dreadful; disturbing or frightening.
    • 1830, The Cambrian Quarterly Magazine and Celtic Repertory:
      And when I signified my intention of making a tour of the whole province, they most earnestly advised me to alter my plans, and occupy my time in visiting some other part of the kingdom; for they assured me, that all travellers who attempted Basse Bretagne, returned in disgust before they went more thant a few stages into the country, for that its general aspect was that of desolation itself; the roads were impassable ; and the people dirty, ragged barbarians, living in filthy huts, and clothed in sheepskins; that, in short, everything was affreux.
    • 1834, The London Quarterly Review - Issues 103-106, page 141:
      It was in rain that some common friends represented the tort affreux — the frightful mischief he would do the government of his own creation, if he published this work — all in vain: his honor, his conscience, and his patriotism, required that he should raise his voice in defence of the charter, which the king and his ministers equally violate — and the work is published!
    • 2001, Julian Rushton, The Music of Berlioz, →ISBN, page 22:
      Orpheus calls the sound 'affreux'; the examiners may have agreed.
    • 2011, Alan Furst, Red Gold, →ISBN:
      No doubt they would be talking about the affreux – dreadful – Germans. Not so affreux, of course, that one refused to get rich off them.
    • 2012, Elizabeth Musser, Two Testaments: A Novel, →ISBN, page 300:
      As soon as they were in the courtyard, she whispered, “M. Hoffmann has just appeared looking affreux. And he brought with him his father of all things!”



affre (great fear) +‎ -eux


  • IPA(key): /a.fʁø/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes:


affreux (feminine singular affreuse, masculine plural affreux, feminine plural affreuses)

  1. frightful, causing fear
  2. terrible, rubbish, awful
  3. repulsive

Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]



(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


affreux m

  1. (Jersey) terrible

Derived terms[edit]