Definition of cause célèbre in English:

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cause célèbre

Pronunciation: /ˌkôz səˈleb(rə)/
Pronunciation: /ˌkōz səˈleb(rə)/

noun (plural causes célèbres pronounced same)

A controversial issue that attracts a great deal of public attention.
Example sentences
  • It became a cause célèbre, a controversy and it involved tick-tack of a very competitive nature between the judicial and legislative arms of government in that country.
  • In both these cases, the principal weapon it used was the judicial cause célèbre that dramatically highlighted an individual case of persecution and injustice before the ‘tribunal of public opinion’.
  • Eventually the dispute became such a cause célèbre that a delegation of strikers headed by their leading shop steward, Rose Boland, was invited to tea in Whitehall with the then employment secretary, Barbara Castle.


Mid 18th century: French, literally 'famous case'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cause cé·lè·bre

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