Eduard von Grützner's depiction of Falstaff, a literary character well known for his joie de vivre.

Joie de vivre (ˌʒwɑː də ˈvv(rə)⫽ ZHWAHVEEV(-rə), French: [ʒwa d(ə) vivʁ] ; "joy of living") is a French phrase often used in English to express a cheerful enjoyment of life, an exultation of spirit, and general happiness.

It "can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do… And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauung. Robert's Dictionnaire says "joie" is sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience, that is, involves one's whole being."[1]

Origins and development

Casual use of the phrase in French can be dated back at least as far as Fénelon in the late 17th century, but it was only brought into literary prominence in the 19th century, first by Michelet (1857) in his pantheistic work Insecte, to contrast the passive life of plants with animal joie de vivre,[2]: 300  and then by Émile Zola in his book of that name from 1883–84.[2]: 305 

Thereafter, it took on increasing weight as a mode of life, evolving at times almost into a secular religion[2]: 306  in the early 20th century; and subsequently fed into Lacanian emphasis on "a jouissance beyond the pleasure principle"[3] in the latter half of the century – a time when its emphasis on enthusiasm, energy and spontaneity gave it a global prominence with the rise of hippie culture.[4]


20th-century proponents of self-actualization such as Abraham Maslow or Carl Rogers saw, as one of the by-products, the rediscovery of what the latter called "the quiet joy in being one's self...a spontaneous relaxed enjoyment, a primitive joie de vivre".[5]

Joie de vivre has also been linked to D. W. Winnicott's concept of a sense of play, and of access to the true self.[6]


Henri Matisse, Le bonheur de vivre, 1905–06

It is usually referenced in its standard French form, but various corruptions are observed such as joie de vie, which would translate to "joy of life".[7] The Matisse painting Le bonheur de vivre translates as, "The Happiness of Life".

See also


  1. ^ Shibles, Warren (1997). Humor Reference Guide: A Comprehensive Classification and Analysis. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-2097-5.
  2. ^ a b c Harrow, Susan; Unwin, Timothy A; Freeman, Michael (2009). Joie de vivre in French literature and culture : essays in honour of Michael Freeman. Amsterdam, NTH & New York, NY: Rodopi Publishers. ISBN 9789042028968. OCLC 430229593.
  3. ^ Lacan, Jacques; Miller, Jacques-Alain; Sheridan, Alan (1994). The four fundamental concepts of psycho-analysis. London, UK: Penguin Books. p. 184. ISBN 9780140242782. OCLC 33725110.
    Later online version of The four fundamental concepts of psycho-analysis. London, UK & New York, NY: Karnac. 2004. OCLC 733841387, 729166946.
  4. ^ Andrews, Cecile (2006). Slow is beautiful : new visions of community, leisure and joie de vivre. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers. p. 96. ISBN 9781550924145. OCLC 471124890, 810539385.
  5. ^ Rogers, Carl R (1961). On becoming a person : a therapist's view of psychotherapy. Boston, MA, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 87–88. ISBN 9780395084090. OCLC 172718.
    Later online versions of On becoming a person : a therapist's view of psychotherapy. OCLC 782873749, 783585017, 856932797, 858970706.
    On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy at Google Books
  6. ^ Lamb, Charles (1985). Phillips, Adam (ed.). Selected prose. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, UK & New York, NY: Penguin classics. p. 446. ISBN 9780140432381. OCLC 680112630.
  7. ^ "Joie de Vie Poodle Dog Wall Art". Retrieved 2013-11-16.

Further reading