Qui vive – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the phrase 'qui vive' somewhere on the internet or in a text and would like to know what it means, or why someone has used it? The phrase 'qui vive' is common, even in English, though the phrase originates from another language. This post unpacks the origin and most common correct use of the saying.


The phrase 'qui vive' is a direct translation that is used to mean someone should remain on high alert or on guard.

The saying 'qui vive' is common as a statement or response, though it can also be used as a cautionary statement or warning.

'Qui vive' is usually said directly to someone in conversation, or in response.

'Qui vive' has been a popular expression for at least a century or longer, though the phrase has experienced heights in use.

The phrase 'qui vive' has made its way around to popular use in the English language partially due to its reference as a pop culture reference. 'Qui vive' is a saying that is often used in gaming, and this has added to its somewhat international reach as a reference.

Usually, the phrase is used in the original language, and it is not necessarily to translate the saying back to English for it to be understood.

Example Usage

“You have to be careful with these pizza places. If you don't specify that you don't want it on your order, they might put pineapple on it by accident. Qui vive, everyone.”

“Every time we used to have a sleepover at Dave's house we used qui vive, because his grandmother has Alzheimer's and used to wander around the place without her clothes on.”

“Qui vive, girls. Make sure you don't take a drink from anyone at the club, people can throw some nasty things in your wine these days and you'll wake up somewhere with a missing kidney.”

“Qui vive. If you don't look out for spelling mistakes, they're everywhere, just like bees on the highway.”


According to language resources (including Merriam-Webster Dictionary), the phrase 'qui vive' has been in use since at least the 1700s.

Merriam-Webster states that the saying is likely to have originated with the French, and it is actually a phrase that translates to, 'long live who' – although it has become common as a phrase of encouragement or alertness between people.

Since the 1700s use of the term in France, it's likely to have made its way around with writing of the time – and eventually it would have become absorbed into other cultures, though not all, as a popular phrase.

Today the phrase is common in France, but might also be seen internationally thanks to the internet.

Modern use of the phrase is likely to refer to gaming, where the phrase can be used amongst players.

The phrase is listed on the website Urban Dicitonary from 2018.

Phrases Similar to Qui Vive

  • To life

Phrases Opposite to Qui Vive

  • Kill me

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Qui vive

Ways People May Say Qui Vive Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase 'qui vive' in the wrong way, or misunderstand the saying when it is used by someone online or in a text.

The phrase 'qui vive' can be confusing to anyone who has not encountered the term before, and who sees the phrase out of context (e.g. on a gaming platform).

Modern use of the phrase has been embraced in many languages without the need to translate, but the sentence might have no context in other countries where this is not necessarily the case.

'Qui vive' is used to mean that someone should be alert.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Qui Vive

There are several correct ways to use the phrase 'qui vive', including to use the phrase as a mock war-cry during LARP or online games – though the saying can also be used in other ways, including said between people as a means to say 'stay alert'.

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