Let’s talk Agile

Posted on November 23, 2020

In my previous blog post entitled “Comment parler Scrum (in French only), I explained that Scrum is an agile framework. “Agile” seems to have become quite the buzzword. While reading, writing, translating or revising a document, you may have asked yourself if a team, method or management style could be described as “agile.” Or perhaps you’ve wondered about the origins of the term “agility,” which everyone, especially managers, is becoming increasingly fond of.

The Agile philosophy

The term “Agile” (with a capital “A”) refers to a project management philosophy based on 12 principles. These principles are set out in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, an online document that has been translated into many languages.

The manifesto has been signed by 17 software development experts, who wanted to find a way to replace traditional (and often rigid) project management processes, hence the use of the word “Agile.”

Agile principles are based on people, products, cooperation and adaptation, rather than processes, documentation, negotiation and planning.

As the title of the manifesto indicates, the Agile philosophy initially applied to software project management. However, it is increasingly being extended to project management in general.

To be or not to be agile?

Can we use the adjective “agile” to refer to a project management style that is based on the principles of the manifesto?

In specialized language, more specifically in the fields of computer science and management, the Grand dictionnaire terminologique (available in French only on the Office québécois de la langue française website) uses “agile” as an adjective within the term “agile methods,” and TERMIUM Plus® (available on the Language Portal of Canada website) classifies the term “agile” as an adjective.

In a general sense, the adjective “agile” describes a person or thing that is physically deft or flexible. In a figurative sense, “agile” is defined as being able to think quickly. Merriam-Webster gives the example of “an agile mind,” and other reputable English dictionaries provide examples such as “agile organization,” “agile leader” and “agile intelligence.”

Therefore, you can indeed talk about “agile methods” and “agile management.”

It’s also interesting to note that the adjective “agile” has the same meaning in both English and French. The authors of the manifesto, who are all Anglophones, thought this adjective would convey their concept well. Remember that they chose this word in contrast to the word “rigid” (as in “rigid management framework”).

Upper-case versus lower-case “a”

As we saw earlier, the term “agile” is included in both specialized and general language tools. Whether to use the noun or adjective depends on the context.

The term “Agile” (with a capital “A”) is an official designation. It refers specifically to the product development philosophy described in the manifesto. For example, you could say “the Agile philosophy” or “an Agile consultant.”

The adjective “agile” (with a lower case “a”) is used in general language to establish a relationship between a common noun and the Agile philosophy. For example, you could say “agile development” or “agile framework.”

Using these terms with “agility”

So there you have it! I hope this overview helps you to express these concepts with agility. Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other resources on this topic.

Adapted by Denise Ramsankar, Language Portal of Canada


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Ève Lyne Marchand

Ève Lyne Marchand

Ève Lyne Marchand has been an English-to-French translator for the Government of Canada since 2009. She specializes in employment, training and project management. In addition to translation, she studied creative writing and music—her gateways to a parallel life where she writes works of poetry, fantasy and science fiction.


Leave a comment

Please consult the “Comments and interaction” section on the Canada.ca Terms and conditions page before adding your comment. The Language Portal of Canada reviews comments before they’re posted. We reserve the right to edit, refuse or remove any question or comment that violates these commenting guidelines.

By submitting a comment, you permanently waive your moral rights, which means that you give the Government of Canada permission to use, reproduce, edit and share your comment royalty-free, in whole or in part, in any manner it chooses. You also confirm that nothing in your comment infringes third party rights (for example, the use of a text from a third party without his or her permission).

Join in the conversation and share your comments!


Comments are displayed in the language they were submitted.

Read comments

Submitted by techgrade on December 7, 2022, at 3:36

Very interesting article, very informative and helpful for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

Submitted by EL Marchand on September 14, 2023, at 13:35

Thank you! I'm glad you find it helpful.

Submitted by Suman Sarkar on January 11, 2023, at 11:15

Nice to know something new regarding agile. Thank you for the opportunity to learn.

Submitted by 7sparx on July 28, 2023, at 3:07

This is a fine blog. Moreover it is an interesting blog about leadership-management training, agile leadership training.

Submitted by EL Marchand on September 14, 2023, at 13:41

Nice comment, thank you. Yes, we often talk about "agile methods" in management and leadership in general.