I was reading Les Misérables and on page 180 it says:

Dieser Feldzug hatte ihm, wie er sich ausdrückte, Quibus eingebracht, und damit hatte er seine Gastwirtschaft in Montfermeil gegründet. Aber Quibus, gestohlene Börsen und Uhren, goldene Ringe und silberne Kreuze, der Ertrag eines Schlachtfeldes, reichte nicht aus, um es wirklich weiterzubringen.

What does Quibus mean in that context? I know it means dadurch, daher, dieser, jener. But none of these make sense to me.

  • FWIW, it is "Les Miserables". Jul 22, 2017 at 20:23
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    @RudyVelthuis, isn't it Les Misérables?
    – Carsten S
    Jul 22, 2017 at 23:40
  • Les Misérables is correct. @RudyVelthuis
    – fdb
    Jul 23, 2017 at 10:44
  • @fdb: Ah, yes, "Misérables". Don't write much French, these days. Jul 23, 2017 at 11:20
  • 2
    These miserable comments read like a sketch. :P Jul 24, 2017 at 6:58

3 Answers 3



The word quibus was left untranslated from the French original where Victor Hugo put it in quotes to even better reflect that it was the word Thénardier used.

Cette campagne faite, ayant, comme il disait, « du quibus », il était venu ouvrir gargote à Montfermeil.

Derived from Latin it was used in France from the 17. Century as a widely known term for: money, wherewithal, wealth. It even was mentioned in a nursery rhyme:

Quibus, quabus!
Qui est-ce donc qui glousse?
C’est la poule et ses poulettes,
Qui n’ont ni souliers ni chaussettes;
Monsieur Canard et madame Oie,
Qui ne veulent jamais marcher droit.
Ils viennent de bien loin, allez!
De par la mer des scarabées,
Où ils n’ont trouvé à gruger
Que du fromage tout émietté.
Ah! donnez vite, car ils ont faim,
Donnez-leur vite une croûte de pain.
Monsieur du Coq, d’un ton hardi,
Vous crie déjà: kiki riki!

Of course the same meaning (Geld, Wohlstand) still holds true for the German translation.

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    The nursery rhyme doesn't really tell me the meaning of the word, though. In that context, it can just as well be (one of) the original Latin meaning(s). Jul 23, 2017 at 11:24
  • @RudyVelthuis of course not, nursery rhymes rarely do but the context is close (...who don't have shoes or socks). I posted it to show that it was not an uncommon word. The meaning and etymology is given in the "hidden" link to a dictionary in the headlines.
    – Takkat
    Jul 23, 2017 at 12:46
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    well, most birds don't have shoes or socks. And chickens often pick like they are hungry all the time. <g> Jul 23, 2017 at 14:06

Es hatte ihm Quibus eingebracht (it had yielded him quibus).

It seems to come from conquibus (quibus is probably a short form, or a mispronunciation, or a colloquial term in France at the time the book was written). That is explained here:


It seems to mean wealth, money, possessions, or more strictly: wherewithal.

I think that matches the meaning it has in the context you quoted.

  • Another simple yet well known English term is loot.
    – Janka
    Jul 22, 2017 at 21:12
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    The author had explained what he meant by Quibus: Aber Quibus, gestohlene Börsen und Uhren, goldene Ringe und silberne Kreuze, der Ertrag eines Schlachtfeldes,Quibus is not part of that enumeration but rather the thing explained by it.
    – Janka
    Jul 22, 2017 at 21:34
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    wie er sich ausdrückte, Quibus eingebracht. It's obvious Quibus is meant as an euphemism for loot here.
    – Janka
    Jul 22, 2017 at 21:59
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    @Janka: I think it is simply "wealth" pr "money", not an euphemism for "loot". The Wiktionary entry for conquibus seems to confirm that. Jul 22, 2017 at 22:11
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    Quibus is then term used in the French original.
    – Takkat
    Jul 23, 2017 at 8:42

You face an euphemism here.

Dieser Feldzug hatte ihm, wie er sich ausdrückte, einiges von Wert eingebracht. Aber einiges von Wert, gestohlene Börsen und Uhren, goldene Ringe und silberne Kreuze, der Ertrag eines Schlachtfeldes …

The important part is wie er sich ausdrückte. This is a marker phrase for euphemisms uncovered.

Er hatte das Problem, wie er sich ausdrückte, gelöst.

He had, in his words, "solved" the problem.

Germans don't draw ticks in the air nor they write them. Euphemisms are marked with phrases instead.

So in your example it's not necessary to know what Quibus really means (the author pretty much assumed no one would even bother to look it up). It's an euphemism for the loot enumerated in the next sentence.

  • Euphemisms are not necessarily marked with phrases in German, and this is a translation from a French text anyway. He used the expression "quibus", which is not really a proper word, more a colloquilaism. It is not a euphemism, is it simply short for conquibus. Jul 22, 2017 at 22:14
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    Here is the French original (where "quibus" originated): Cette campagne faite, ayant, comme il disait, « du quibus », il était venu ouvrir gargote à Montfermeil. This answer is entirely correct. Why so many downvotes?
    – Takkat
    Jul 23, 2017 at 8:42
  • I mean of course one can understand the text without knowing what it means. But the beauty of the text lies in it's words. Oh and Victor Hugo is excellent in his word choice, so I would like to understand every word.
    – Hakaishin
    Jul 23, 2017 at 9:56
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    Victor Hugo had put it into guillemets by purpose. The translator was aware "quibus" was a euphemism in french, too, so he left it untranslated.
    – Janka
    Jul 23, 2017 at 11:43
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    Why is this downvoted? Jul 23, 2017 at 18:50

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