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What is Esprit De Corps?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Esprit de corps (pronounced es-pree deh core) translates from French as group spirit. It is a synonym for words like morale, comradeship, and purpose. Normally, this phrase translates only as positive group spirit. In its strictest sense, it applied only to military groups, who together form a sense of purpose and comradeship. Yet it is often also used in common language to refer to any group that appears united and protective of its members.

Many different groups, like kids in a classroom, a scout troop, a parent’s club, a political organization, or thousands of others can said to be unified by esprit de corps. Where it does not exist, disorganization can prevail.

One example of esprit de corps can be found regularly on television shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The host and his team rally communities into assisting worthy families who need homes. Most of the shows feature many community members who are pleased to show their sense of truly belonging to a community by helping others. Such sense of purpose can make quite a difference in the world.

In military units, esprit de corps is essential, since soldiers who feel part of a team are most likely to protect each other. A demoralized unit is one lacking in morale, and it is by maintaining group spirit that soldiers are able to survive the rigors and horrors of battle and risk to life and limb. This is why military groups are often divided into units, usually groups of people who have trained together, and will fight together should the need exist. By establishing close ties between soldiers working in an army, it is always hoped that a sense of comradeship will develop.

A lovely example of the need of esprit de corps in organized sports is the moving film Remember the Titans, a biopic about a high school football team in the southern US that for the first time integrated black and white players. The goal of the coach is to help his players overcome their differences and accept each other so that a sense of purpose and positive feelings help the team. They further must accept him, an African American, as leader of the team, which was challenging given the prevailing views at the time.

A particularly effective moment in the film is Coach Boone’s impassioned speech on the grounds where the Gettysburg Battle was fought. His words, “If we don’t come together on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed,” express his strong desire for the team to develop the esprit de corps necessary in a racially divided world, and in the competitive sport of football.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By GigaGold — On Jan 31, 2011

I think that the French "espirit de corps" has been strengthened culturally to the point where they see no need for military prowess. The influence of France in the world is so immense that it transcends any need for war of any kind.

By Proxy414 — On Jan 30, 2011


I think it is ironic because many believe the French to be weak-spirited, based on recent history and the tendency to surrender. This was not always the case; France was once a very strong power.

By Tufenkian925 — On Jan 28, 2011


Why would people find it ironic that military terms are French? I think it is quite natural.

By Proxy414 — On Jan 27, 2011

Some might think it ironic that French terms are used for military concepts and bodies. This is because the Normans formed the leadership of the disciplined military in England, which was established after William the Conqueror. England did well under the Normans because it gained a strong and rigid discipline which was inherited indirectly from Charlemagne and the Roman army.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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