List of French expressions in English

Around 45%[1] of English vocabulary is of French origin, most coming from the Anglo-Norman spoken by the upper classes in England for several hundred years after the Norman Conquest, before the language settled into what became Modern English. Thoroughly English words of French origin, such as art, competition, force, machine, money, police, publicity, role, routine and even table, are pronounced according to English rules of phonology, rather than French, and are commonly used by English speakers without any consciousness of their French origin.

This article, on the other hand, covers French words and phrases that have entered the English lexicon without ever losing their character as Gallicisms: they remain unmistakably "French" to an English speaker. They are most common in written English, where they retain French diacritics and are usually printed in italics. In spoken English, at least some attempt is generally made to pronounce them as they would sound in French; an entirely English pronunciation is regarded as a solecism.

Some of them were never "good French", in the sense of being grammatical, idiomatic French usage. Some others were once normal French but have become very old-fashioned, or have acquired different meanings and connotations in the original language, to the extent that they would not be understood (either at all, or in the intended sense) by a native French speaker.



Not used as such in FrenchFound only in EnglishFrench phrases in international air-sea rescueSee alsoReferences

Used in English and French


Apéritifs with amuse-gueules
à gogo
in abundance. In French this is colloquial.
à la
in the manner of/in the style of[2]
à la carte
lit. "on the menu"; In restaurants it refers to ordering individual dishes rather than a fixed-price meal.
à la mode
idiomatic: in the style; In the United States, the phrase is used to describe a dessert with an accompanying scoop of ice cream (example: apple pie à la mode). In French, it also means trendy. Boeuf à la mode for instance is a beef recipe with ale, carrots and onions.
à propos
regarding/concerning (the correct French syntax is à propos de)  :
confinement during childbirth; the process of having a baby; only this latter meaning remains in French
acquis communautaire
used in European Union law to refer to the total body of EU law accumulated thus far.
lit. "camp helper"; A military officer who serves as an adjutant to a higher-ranking officer, prince or other high political dignitary.
lit. "memory aid"; an object or memorandum to assist in remembrance, or a diplomatic paper proposing the major points of discussion
"Let's go!" The letter "y" is the place, as in "il y a" ("there is").
amour propre
"Self-love", Self-respect.
amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule
lit. "mouth amuser"; a single, bite-sized hors d'œuvre. In France, the exact expression used is amuse-gueule, gueule being slang for mouth (gueule is the mouth of a carnivorous animal; when used to describe the mouth of a human, it is vulgar), although the expression in itself is not vulgar (see also: cul-de-sac).
ancien régime
a sociopolitical or other system that no longer exists, an allusion to pre-revolutionary France (used with capital letters in French with this meaning: Ancien Régime)
preview; a first impression; initial insight.
apéritif or aperitif 
lit. "[drink] opening the appetite", a before-meal drink.[3] In colloquial French, un apéritif is usually shortened to un apéro.
appellation contrôlée
supervised use of a name. For the conventional use of the term, see Appellation d'origine contrôlée
1. A natural craving or desire 2. An attraction or affinity; From French word "Appétence", derived from "Appétit" (Appetite).
après moi, le déluge
lit. "After me, the deluge", a remark attributed to Louis XV of France in reference to the impending end of a functioning French monarchy and predicting the French Revolution. It is derived from Madame de Pompadour's après nous, le déluge, "after us, the deluge". The Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, famously known as the "Dambusters", uses this as its motto.
a narrow ridge. In French, also fishbone; edge of a polyhedron or graph; bridge of the nose.
a type of cabinet; wardrobe.
ulterior motive; concealed thought, plan, or motive.
art nouveau
a style of decoration and architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It takes a capital in French (Art nouveau).
a person attached to an embassy; in French it is also the past participle of the verb attacher (= to fasten, to tighten, to be linked)
attaque au fer
an attack on the opponent's blade in fencing, e.g. beat, expulsion, pressure.
au contraire
on the contrary.
au courant
up-to-date; abreast of current affairs.
au fait
being conversant in or with, or instructed in or with.
au gratin
"with gratings", anything that is grated onto a food dish. In English, specifically 'with cheese'.
au jus
lit. "with juice", referring to a food course served with sauce. Often redundantly formulated, as in 'Open-faced steak sandwich, served with au jus.' No longer used in French, except for the colloquial, être au jus (to be informed).
au naturel
1. a. Nude. b. In a natural state: an au naturel hairstyle. 2. Cooked simply.
au pair
a young foreigner who does domestic chores in exchange for room and board. In France, those chores are mainly child care/education.
au revoir !
"See you later!" In French, a contraction of Au plaisir de vous revoir (to the pleasure of seeing you again).
avant-garde (pl. avant-gardes)
applied to cutting-edge or radically innovative movements in art, music and literature; figuratively "on the edge", literally, a military term, meaning "vanguard" (which is a corruption of avant-garde) or "advance guard", in other words, "first to attack" (antonym of arrière-garde).
avant la lettre
used to describe something or someone seen as a forerunner of something (such as an artistic or political movement) before that something was recognized and named, e.g., "a post-modernist avant la lettre", "a feminist avant la lettre". The expression literally means "before the letter", i.e., "before it had a name". The French modern form of this expression is avant l'heure.
used in Middle English, avoir de pois = commodities sold by weight, alteration of Old French aveir de peis = "goods of weight"


a long, narrow loaf of bread with a crisp crust, often called "French bread" or "French stick" in the United Kingdom. In French, a baguette is any long and narrow, stick-like object.
a long upholstered bench or a sofa.
beaucoup de
Used interchangeably with the English equivalent of "lots of/many/a great number of". Appropriate when the speaker wants to convey a greater positive connotation and/or greater emphasis. Often used as an informal expression, mostly in small regional dialect-pockets in the Canadian Prairies and the American South, especially in Alberta and Louisiana respectively.
beau geste
lit. "beautiful gesture", a gracious gesture, noble in form but often futile or meaningless in substance. This French expression has been pressing at the door of standard English with only partial success, since the appearance of P.C. Wren's Beau Geste (1924), the first of his Foreign Legion novels.[4]
monumental architectural style of the early 20th century made famous by the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
bel esprit (pl. beaux esprits)
lit. "fine mind"; a cultivated, highly intelligent person.
a beautiful woman or girl. Common uses of this word are in the phrases the belle of the ball (the most beautiful woman or girl present at a function) and southern belle (a beautiful woman from the southern states of the US)
Belle Époque
a period in European social history that began during the late 19th century and lasted until World War I.
lit. "fine letters"; literature regarded for its aesthetic value rather than its didactic or informative content; also, light, stylish writings, usually on literary or intellectual subjects
bien entendu
well understood, well known, obvious - "of course"
bien pensant
lit. "well thinking"; right thinking, orthodox. Commonly implies willful blindness to dangers or suffering faced by others. The noun form bien-pensance is rarely seen in English.
lit. "sweet note", love letter[5]
unimpressed with something because of over-familiarity, jaded.
bon appétit
lit. "good appetite"; "enjoy your meal".
bon mot (pl. bons mots) 
well-chosen word(s), particularly a witty remark ("each bon mot which falls from his lips is analysed and filed away for posterity", The European Magazine, 29 August – 4 September 1996)
bon vivant
one who enjoys the good life, an epicurean.
bon voyage
lit. "good journey"; have a good trip!
a type of large road, usually running through a city.
member of the bourgeoisie, originally shopkeepers living in towns in the Middle Ages. Now the term is derogatory, and it applies to a person whose beliefs, attitudes, and practices are conventionally middle-class.
a bunch of flowers.
small ornamental objects, less valuable than antiques; a collection of old furniture, china, plates and curiosities. Cf. de bric et de broc, corresponding to our "by hook or by crook," and brack, refuse.
a sweet yeast bun, kind of a crossover between a popover and a light muffin; French also use the term as slang for 'potbelly', because of the overhang effect.
a brown-haired girl. For brown-haired man, French uses brun and for a woman brune. Brunette is rarely used in French.
bureau (pl. bureaux)
office; originally meant "desk" in French.


ça ne fait rien
"that doesn't matter"; rendered as san fairy Ann in British World War I slang.[6]
a collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place (such as in an oubliette)
lit. "stamp"; a distinctive quality; quality, prestige.
a coffee shop (also used in French for "coffee").
café au lait
coffee with milk; or a light-brown color. In medicine, it is also used to describe a birthmark that is of a light-brown color (café au lait spot).
a copied term/thing.
(canard means "duck" in French)
  1. an unfounded rumor or anecdote.
  2. a leading airfoil attached to an aircraft forward of the main wing.
  3. a slang word for "newspaper".
  4. a piece of sugar slighly soused with coffee or cognac (or another strong alcohol).
A small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite.
carte blanche
lit. "white card" (i.e. blank check); unlimited authority.
carte de visite
lit. "visiting card" ; a calling card.

c'est la guerre: "That's war!", or...

c'est la vie: "That's life!" or "Such is life!"

Though either foreign expression can be used to say that life is harsh but that one must accept it, the former may imply a more deliberate cause thereof, while the latter, more accidental.
chaise longue
a long chair for reclining; sometimes misstated as "chaise lounge"
lit. "Elysian Fields"; Avenue des Champs-Élysées, one of the broadest boulevards in Paris. Often referred to as simply les Champs.
a female singer.[7]
chargé d'affaires
a diplomat left in charge of day-to-day business at a diplomatic mission. Within the United States Department of State, a "chargé" is any officer left in charge of the mission in the absence of the titular chief of mission.
chef d'œuvre
a masterpiece.
cherchez la femme
"look for / seek the woman", in the sense that, when a man behaves out of character or in an otherwise apparently inexplicable manner, the reason may be found in his trying to cover up an illicit affair with a woman, or to impress or gain favour with a woman. This expression was first used in a novel by Alexandre Dumas (père), in the third chapter of Les Mohicans de Paris (1854), in the form of cherchons la femme ("let's look for the woman"). The expression is found in John Latey's 1878 English translation: "Ah! Monsieur Jackal, you were right when you said, 'Seek the woman.'" The phrase was adopted into everyday English use and crossed the Atlantic by 1909.[8]
at the house of: often used in the names of restaurants and the like; Chez Marie = "Marie's".
a hairstyle worn in a roll at the nape of the neck.
cinéma pur
an avant-garde film movement which was born in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s.
cinéma vérité
realism in documentary filmmaking. "Vérité" means "truth".
originally referred to a printer's block used to reproduce type, compare the original meaning of stereotype. A phrase that has become trite through overuse; a stereotype.
a small exclusive group of friends; always used in a pejorative way in French.
an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects.
a commanding officer. In France, used for an airline pilot (le commandant de bord), in the Army as appellative for a chef de bataillon or a chef d'escadron (roughly equivalent to a major) or in the Navy for any officer from capitaine de corvette to capitaine de vaisseau (equivalent to the Army's majors, lieutenant-colonels and colonels) or for any officer heading a ship.
comme ci, comme ça
lit. "like this, like that"; neither good nor bad, so-so.
lit. "communicated"; an official communication.
a receptionist at a hotel or residence.
an agreement; a treaty; when used with a capital C in French, it refers to the treaty between the French State and Judaeo-Christian religions during the French Empire (Napoleon): priests, ministers and rabbis became civil servants. This treaty was abolished in 1905 (law Church-State separation) but is still in use in Alsace-Lorraine (those territories were under German administration during 1871–1918).
confrère (also confrere)
a colleague, an associate[9]
against the blow. This word describes the repercussion of a physical or mental shock, or an indirect consequence of an event.
against daylight. This word (mostly used in art namely photography, cinema or painting) describes the light that illumines an object from the other side of your own point of view.
an awkward clash; a delay.
a flirtatious girl; a tease.
cordon bleu
a cordon bleu may refer to several things, both in French and in English :
  1. A person who excels in cooking.
  2. An award given to such a person.
  3. An international group of hospitality management and cooking schools teaching French cuisine, founded in France.
  4. An escalope of veal, chicken or pork stuffed with ham and cheese, then breaded and fried.
cordon sanitaire
a policy of containment directed against a hostile entity or ideology; a chain of buffer states; lit. "quarantine line".
a road that clings like a ledge to the side of a cliff or mountain.
a funeral procession; in French has a broader meaning and refers to all kinds of processions.
coup de foudre
lit. "thunderbolt" ("strike of thunder"); a sudden unforeseen event, usually used to describe love at first sight.
coup d'état
political coup, government overthrow
coup de grâce
the final blow that results in victory (lit. "blow of mercy"), historically used in the context of the battlefield to refer to the killing of badly wounded enemy soldiers, now more often used in a figurative context (e.g., business).
coup de main
(lit. "a blow with the hand."), means "help from someone". Example : "Besoin d'un coup de main ?" means "Need help ?"
coup de maître
stroke of the master, master stroke. This word describes a planned action skilfully done. See also tour de force below
coup de théâtre
a dramatic turn of events.[10]
coup d'œil
lit. "a blow (or touch) of the eye"; a glance.
fashion (usually refers to high fashion).
a fashion designer (usually refers to high fashion, rather than everyday clothes design. In French, it means 'tailor'; a couturière is a seamstress.
a nativity display; more commonly (in the United Kingdom), a place where children are left by their parents for short periods in the supervision of childminders; both meanings still exist in French.[11]
crème brûlée
lit. "burnt cream"; a dessert consisting primarily of custard and toasted sugar, that is, caramel.
crème de la crème
best of the best, "cream of the cream," used to describe highly skilled people or objects. A synonymous expression in French is fin du fin.
crème fraîche
lit. "fresh cream," a heavy cream slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as sour cream and does not curdle.
a thin sweet or savoury pancake eaten as a light meal or dessert.
a takeaway restaurant or stall, serving crêpes as a form of fast food or street food, or may be a more formal sit-down restaurant or café.
a critical analysis or evaluation of a work, or the art of criticizing. From Latin criticus, from Ancient Greek κριτικός (kritikos).
a crescent-shaped bread made of flaky pastry.
originally "bottom of sack"[12] and used in English in anatomy since 1738. Used for dead end (street) since 1800 in English, since 14th century in French.[13] The often heard erroneous folk etymology "arse [buttocks] of the sack" is based on the current meaning of cul in French, but cul-de-sac is used to refer to dead ends in modern French and is not vulgar (see also amuse-gueule) though the terms impasse and voie sans issue are more common in modern French.


de rigueur
required or expected, especially in fashion or etiquette.[14]
de trop
unnecessary, unwanted, or more than is suitable.
of inferior social status.
a woman's garment with a low-cut neckline that exposes cleavage, or a situation in which a woman's chest or cleavage is exposed; décolletage is dealt with below.
the layout and furnishing of a room.
decoration with cut paper.
a reduced wine-based sauce for meats and poultry.
semi-dry, usually said of wine.
déjà vu
lit. "already seen": an impression or illusion of having seen or experienced something before.
lit. "untying": the resolution of a narrative.
(Quebec English) a convenience store.
a bicycle gear-shift mechanism.
dernier cri
lit. "latest scream": the latest fashion.
lit. "behind": rear, buttocks.
partially clad or scantily dressed; also a special type of garment.
easing of diplomatic tension.
a digestive aid, esp., an after-dinner drink, as brandy.[15]
directeur sportif
lit. "sports director". A person responsible for the operation of a cycling team during a road bicycle race. In French, it means any kind of sports director.
an amusing diversion; entertainment.
a file containing detailed information about a person.[16] In modern French it can be any type of file, including a computer directory. In slang, J'ai des dossiers sur toi ("I have files about you") means having materials for blackmail.
the senior member of a group; the feminine is doyenne.[17] Also dean (of faculty, or medicine).
a form of competitive horse training, in French has the broader meaning of taming any kind of animal.
droit du seigneur
lit. "right of the lord": the purported right of a lord in feudal times to take the virginity of one of his vassals' brides on her wedding night (in precedence to her new husband). The French term for this hypothetical custom is droit de cuissage (from cuisse: thigh).
du jour
lit. "of the day": said of something fashionable or hip for a day and quickly forgotten; today's choice on the menu, as soup du jour .[18]


En plein air
eau de Cologne
a type of perfume, originating in Cologne. Its Italian creator used a French name to commercialize it, Cologne at that time being under the control of France.
eau de toilette
lit. "grooming water." It usually refers to an aromatic product that is less expensive than a perfume because it has less of the aromatic compounds and is more for an everyday use. Cannot be shortened to eau, which means something else altogether in French (water).
eau de vie
lit. "water of life" (cf. Aquavit and whisky), a type of fruit brandy.
a card game; also a ballet position.
dance movement foot position.
a cream and chocolate icing pastry.
great brilliance, as of performance or achievement. Conspicuous success. Great acclamation or applause.[19]
flayed; biological graphic or model with skin removed.
a distinctive flair or style.
élan vital
lit. "vital ardor"; the vital force hypothesized by Henri Bergson as a source of efficient causation and evolution in nature; also called "life-force"
éminence grise
lit. "grey eminence": a publicity-shy person with little formal power but great influence over those in authority.
en banc
court hearing of the entire group of judges instead of a subset panel.
en bloc
as a group.
en garde
"[be] on [your] guard". "On guard" is of course perfectly good English: the French spelling is used for the fencing term.
en passant
in passing; term used in chess and in neurobiology ("synapse en passant.")
en pointe
(in ballet) on tiptoe. Though used in French in this same context, it is not an expression as such. A pointe is the ballet figure where one stands on tiptoes. The expression "en pointe," though, means "in an acute angle," and, figuratively, it qualifies the most progressive or modern things (ideas, industry…).
en route
on the way
enfant terrible
lit. "terrible child;" a disruptively unconventional person.
A gripping listlessness or melancholia caused by boredom; depression
diplomatic agreement or cooperation. L'Entente cordiale (the Cordial Entente) refers to the good diplomatic relationship between France and United Kingdom before the first World War.
entre nous
lit. "between us"; confidentially.
lit. "entrance"; the first course of a meal (UK English); used to denote the main dish or course of a meal (US English).
desserts/sweet dishes. More literally, a side dish that can be served between the courses of a meal.
a person who undertakes and operates a new enterprise or venture and assumes some accountability for the inherent risks.
a plump, hourglass figure.
épater la bourgeoisie or épater le bourgeois
lit. "to shock the middle classes,"[20] a rallying cry for the French Decadent poets of the late 19th century including Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud.[21][22]
snail; in English, used only as a culinary term.
esprit de corps
lit. "spirit of the body [group]": a feeling of solidarity among members of a group; morale. Often used in connection with a military force.
esprit de l'escalier
lit. "wit of the stairs"; a concise, clever statement you think of too late, that is, on the stairs leaving the scene. The expression was created by French philosopher Denis Diderot. Very rarely used in French.
l'État, c'est moi !
lit. "I am the state!" — attributed to the archetypal absolute monarch, Louis XIV of France.
a musical composition designed to provide practice in a particular technical skill in the performance of an instrument. French for "study."
small ornamental case for needles or cosmetics.
"Excuse me".
extraordinary, usually as a following adjective, as "musician extraordinaire."


the front view of an edifice (from the Italian facciata, or face); a fake persona, as in "putting on a façade" (the ç is pronounced like an s)
fait accompli
lit. "accomplished fact"; something that has already happened and is thus unlikely to be reversed, a done deal.[23] In French used only in the expression placer/mettre quelqu'un devant le fait accompli meaning to present somebody with a fait accompli. Also see point of no return.
faute de mieux
for want of better.
false, ersatz, fake.
faux pas
lit. "false step": violation of accepted, although unwritten, social rules.[24]
femme fatale
lit. "deadly woman": an attractive woman who seduces and takes advantage of men for her personal goals, after which she discards or abandons them. It extends to describe an attractive woman with whom a relationship is likely to result, or has already resulted, in pain and sorrow.[25]
lit. "little leaf of paper": a periodical, or part of a periodical, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles.
betrothed; lit. a man/woman engaged to be married.
film noir
Lit. "black film": a genre of dark-themed movies from the 1940s and 1950s that focus on stories of crime and immorality.
lit. "son": used after a man's surname to distinguish a son from a father, as Alexandre Dumas, fils.
fin de siècle
The end of the century, a term which typically encompasses both the meaning of the similar English idiom turn of the century and also makes reference to the closing of one era and onset of another.
a cooking procedure in which alcohol (ethanol) is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames, meaning "flamed" in French. Also used colloquially in reference to something on fire or burned.
a lit torch.
a gentleman stroller of city streets; an aimless idler.
a stylized-flower heraldic device; the golden fleur-de-lis on an azure background were the arms of the French Kingdom (often spelled with the old French style as "fleur-de-lys").
fleur de sel
lit. "flower of salt," hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. Is one of the more expensive salts; traditional French fleur de sel is collected off the coast of Brittany most notably in the town of Guérande (Fleur de Sel de Guérande being the most revered), but also in Noirmoutier, Île de Ré and Camargue.
foie gras
fatty liver; usually the liver of overfed goose, hence: pâté de foie gras, pâté made from goose liver.
folie à deux
a simultaneous occurrence of delusions in two closely related people, often said of an unsuitable romance. In clinical psychology, the term is used to describe people who share schizophrenic delusions. The derived forms folie à trois, folie à quatre, folie en famille or even folie à plusieurs do not exist in French where "collective hysterics" is used.
force majeure
an overpowering and unforeseeable event, especially when talking about weather (often appears in insurance contracts).
Lit. "strong point" (of a sword). Strength, expertise, one's strong point.
coldness (for behavior and manners only).


lit. "boy" or "male servant"; sometimes used by English speakers to summon the attention of a male waiter (has a playful connotation in English but is condescending and possibly offensive in French).
lit. "left". Clumsy, tactless.
boorishness, clumsiness.
a member of the gendarmerie; colloquially, a policeman
a military body charged with police duties
a type or class, such as "the thriller genre".
furnished vacation cottage typically in rural France.
slide down a slope.
Grand Prix
lit. "Great Prize"; a type of motor racing.
Grand Guignol
a horror show, named after a French theater famous for its frightening plays and bloody special effects. (Guignol can be used in French to describe a ridiculous person, in the same way that clown might be used in English.)
a specialized soldier, first established for the throwing of grenades and later as elite troops.


one who regularly frequents a place.[26]
haute couture
lit. "high sewing": Paris-based custom-fitted clothing; trend-setting fashion
haute école
lit. "high school": advanced components of Classical dressage (horseback riding); when capitalized (Haute Ecole), refers to France's most prestigious higher education institutions (e.g., Polytechnique, ENA, Les Mines)
lit. "height": arrogance.[27]
haut monde
lit. the "high world": fashionable society.
Honi soit qui mal y pense
"Shamed be he who thinks ill of it"; or sometimes translated as "Evil be to him who evil thinks"; the motto of the English Order of the Garter (modern French writes honni instead of Old French honi and would phrase "qui en pense du mal" instead of "qui mal y pense").
hors de combat
lit. "out of the fight": prevented from fighting or participating in some event, usually by injury.
hors concours
lit. "out of competition": not to be judged with others because of the superiority of the work to the others.
hors d'œuvre
lit. "outside the [main] work": appetizer.


idée fixe
lit. "fixed idea": obsession; in music, a leitmotiv.
a situation offering no escape, as a difficulty without solution, an argument where no agreement is possible, etc.; a deadlock.[28]
an innocent young man/woman, used particularly in reference to a theatrical stock character who is entirely virginal and wholesome. L'Ingénu is a famous novella written by Voltaire.


"I accuse"; used generally in reference to a political or social indictment (alluding to the title of Émile Zola's exposé of the Dreyfus affair, a political scandal that divided France from the 1890s to the early 1900s (decade) and involved the false conviction for treason in 1894 of Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Jewish background).
In chess, an expression, said discreetly, that signals the intention to straighten the pieces without committing to move or capturing the first one touched as per the game's rules; lit. "I adjust," from adouber, to dub (the action of knighting someone).
je ne regrette rien
"I regret nothing" (from the title of a popular song sung by Édith Piaf: Non, je ne regrette rien). Also the phrase the UK's then Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont chose to use to describe his feelings over the events of September 16, 1992 ('Black Wednesday').
je ne sais quoi
lit. "I-don't-know-what": an indescribable or indefinable 'something' that distinguishes the object in question from others that are superficially similar.
jeu d'esprit
lit. "play of spirit": a witty, often light-hearted, comment or composition
jeunesse dorée
lit. "gilded youth"; name given to a body of young dandies, also called the Muscadins, who, after the fall of Robespierre, fought against the Jacobins. Today used for youthful offspring, particularly if bullying and vandalistic, of the affluent.[29]
joie de vivre
"joy of life/living".


l'appel du vide
lit. "call of the void"; used to refer to intellectual suicidal thoughts, or the urge to engage in self-destructive (suicidal) behaviors during everyday life. Examples include thinking about swerving in to the opposite lane while driving, or feeling the urge to jump off a cliff edge while standing on it. These thoughts are not accompanied by emotional distress.
separation of the State and the different Churches (at first, it concerned especially Catholicism). In France, where the concept originated, it means an absence of religious interference in government affairs and government interference in religious affairs. But the concept is often assimilated and changed by other countries. For example, in Belgium, it usually means the secular-humanist movement and school of thought.
lit. "let do"; often used within the context of economic policy or political philosophy, meaning leaving alone, or non-interference. The phrase is the shortcut of Laissez faire, laissez passer, a doctrine first supported by the Physiocrats in the 18th century. The motto was invented by Vincent de Gournay, and it became popular among supporters of free-trade and economic liberalism. It is also used to describe a parental style in developmental psychology, where the parent(s) does not apply rules or guiding. As per the parental style, it is now one of the major management styles.
a travel document, a passport
laissez les bons temps rouler
Cajun expression for "let the good times roll": not used in proper French, and not generally understood by Francophones outside Louisiana, who would say profitez des bons moments (enjoy the good moments).
a type of fabric woven or knit with metallic yarns.
lanterne rouge
the last-place finisher in a cycling stage race; most commonly used in connection with the Tour de France.
lèse majesté
an offense against a sovereign power; or, an attack against someone's dignity or against a custom or institution held sacred (from the Latin crimen laesae maiestatis: the crime of injured majesty).
a close relationship or connection; an affair. The French meaning is broader; liaison also means "bond"' such as in une liaison chimique (a chemical bond)
a type of female underwear.
an intellectual (can be pejorative in French, meaning someone who writes a lot but does not have a particular skill).[30]
of questionable taste, but also someone or something that arouses somebody's suspicions.[31]
Louis Quatorze
"Louis XIV" (of France), the Sun King, usually a reference to décor or furniture design.
Louis Quinze
"Louis XV" (of France), associated with the rococo style of furniture, architecture and interior decoration.


Mange tout
coarse lace work made with knotted cords.
a woman brothel-keeper (Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd edition, p. 475).[32] In French, a title of respect for an older or married woman (literally "my lady").
lit. "my noble young lady": young unmarried lady, miss.
a general sense of depression or unease.
mange tout
another phrase describing 'peas' (lit. "eat-all," because some peas can be cooked and eaten with their pod).
unfulfilled; failed.
Mardi gras
Fat Tuesday, the last day of eating meat before Lent.
a model or brand.
supplies and equipment, particularly in a military context (French meaning is broader and corresponds more to "hardware")
mauvais quart d'heure
lit. "bad quarter hour": a short unpleasant or uncomfortable moment.
a mixture.
a confused fight; a struggling crowd.
ménage à trois
lit. "household for three": a sexual arrangement between three people.[33]
a field of work or other activity; usually one in which one has special ability or training.
social environment; setting (has also the meaning of "middle" in French).
milieu intérieur
the extra-cellular fluid environment, and its physiological capacity to ensure protective stability for the tissues and organs of multicellular living organisms.
a cooking mixture of two parts onions and one part each of celery and carrots.
mise en place
an assembly of ingredients, usually set up in small bowls, used to facilitate cooking. This means all the raw ingredients are prepared and ready to go before cooking. Translated, "put in place."
mise en scène
the process of setting a stage with regard to placement of actors, scenery, properties, etc.; the stage setting or scenery of a play; surroundings, environment.
mise en table
table setting.
mort de rire or MDR
dead from laughter; equivalent to "laughing out loud" or LOL in English.
le mot juste
lit. "the just word"; the right word at the right time. French uses it often in the expression chercher le mot juste (to search for the right word).
a recurrent thematic element.
a pursing together of the lips to indicate dissatisfaction, a pout.
a whipped dessert or a hairstyling foam; in French, means any type of foam


, née
lit. "born": a man's/woman's birth name (maiden name for a woman), e.g., "Martha Washington, née Dandridge."
n'est-ce pas?
"isn't it [true]?"; asked rhetorically after a statement, as in "Right?".
noblesse oblige
"nobility obliges"; those granted a higher station in life have a duty to extend (possibly token) favours/courtesies to those in lower stations.
nom de guerre
pseudonym to disguise the identity of a leader of a militant group, literally "war name," used in France for "pseudonym".[34]
nom de plume
originally a "back-translation" from the English "pen name": author's pseudonym.
nouveau (pl. nouveaux; fem. nouvelle; fem. pl. nouvelles)
nouveau riche
lit. "newly rich", used to refer particularly to those living a garish lifestyle with their newfound wealth; see also arriviste and parvenu.
nouvelle vague
lit. "new wave." Used for stating a new way or a new trend of something. Originally marked a new style of French filmmaking in the late 1950s and early 1960s, reacting against films seen as too literary.


objet d'art
a work of art, commonly a painting or sculpture; also a utilitarian object displayed for its aesthetic qualities
objet trouvé
an ordinary object, as a piece of driftwood, a shell, or a manufactured article, that is treated as an object of art by one who finds it aesthetically pleasing.[35]
"work," in the sense of an artist's work; by extension, an artist's entire body of work.
dish made from beaten eggs cooked quickly in a pan.
opéra bouffe
comedy, satire, parody or farce.
exceeding the lines of propriety; eccentric in behavior or appearance in an inappropriate way


pain au chocolat
lit. "bread with chocolate." Despite the name, it is not made of bread but puff pastry with chocolate inside. The term chocolatine is used in some Francophone areas (especially the South-West) and sometimes in English.
pain aux raisins
raisin bread.
verve; flamboyance.
lit. "chewed paper"; a craft medium using paper and paste.
par avion
by aircraft. In English, specifically by air mail, from the phrase found on air mail envelopes.
par excellence
better than all the others, quintessential.[36]
parc fermé
lit. "closed park". A secure area at a Grand Prix circuit where the cars may be stored overnight.
urban street sport involving climbing and leaping, using buildings, walls, curbs to ricochet off much as if one were on a skateboard, often in follow-the-leader style. Originally a phonetic form of the French word parcours, which means "a run, a route" Also known as, or the predecessor to, "free running", developed by Sébastien Foucan.
1) (in linguistics) speech, more specifically the individual, personal phenomenon of language; see langue and parole. 2) (in criminal justice) conditional early release from prison; see parole.
a social upstart.
pas de deux
lit. "step for two"; in ballet, a dance or figure for two performers, a duet; also a close relationship between two people.[37]
pas de trois
lit. "step for three"; in ballet, a dance or figure for three performers.
a document or key that allows the holder to travel without hindrance from the authorities or enter any location.
a derivative work; an imitation.
a dialect; jargon.[38]
lit. "father", used after a man's surname to distinguish a father from a son, as in Alexandre Dumas, père.
in cycling, the main group of riders in a road race.
petite bourgeoisie
often anglicised as "petty bourgeoisie", used to designate the middle class.
la petite mort
lit. "the little death"; an expression for orgasm.
lit. "black foot," a European Algerian in the pre-independence state.
pied-à-terre (also pied à terre) 
lit. "foot-on-the-ground"; a place to stay, generally applied to the city house as opposed to the country estate of the wealthy.[39]
lit. "nose-pincher", a type of spectacles without temple arms.
lit. "trail" or "track"; often used referring to skiing at a ski area (on piste) versus skiing in the back country (off piste).
beach, especially a fashionable seaside resort.
plat du jour
lit. "dish of the day"; a dish served in a restaurant on a particular day but separate from the regular menu.
plongeur (fem. plongeuse)
a male (or female) dishwasher.
plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (or plus ça change, plus c'est pareil) (often abbreviated to just plus ça change)
the more things change, the more they stay the same.
point d'appui
a location where troops assemble prior to a battle. While this figurative meaning also exists in French, the first and literal meaning of point d'appui is a fixed point from which a person or thing executes a movement (such as a footing in climbing or a pivot).
porte cochère
an architectural term referring to a kind of porch or porticolike structure.
lit. "poser": a person who pretends to be something he is not; an affected or insincere person; a wannabe.
stew, soup.
pour encourager les autres
lit. "to encourage others"; said of an excessive punishment meted out as an example, to deter others. The original is from Voltaire's Candide and referred to the execution of Admiral John Byng.[40]
lit. "for drink"; gratuity, tip; donner un pourboire: to tip.
lit. "meadow"; expansive natural meadows of long grass.
lit. "ready to wear"; clothing off the shelf, in contrast to haute couture.
lit. "pray [to] God"; a type of prayer desk.
prix fixe
lit. "fixed price"; a menu on which multi-course meals with only a few choices are charged at a fixed price.
lit. "protected"; a man/woman who receives support from an influential mentor.[41]
an agitator, a polemicist.


Quai d'Orsay
address of the French foreign ministry in Paris, used to refer to the ministry itself.
Quatorze juillet
"14th of July," usually called Bastille Day in English. The beginning of the French Revolution in 1789; used to refer to the Revolution itself and its ideals. It is the French National Day.
quelle bonne idée !
What a good idea!
quel dommage !
What a sad thing! (can be used sarcastically).
quel horreur !
What a horrible thing! (can be used sarcastically).
quelle surprise !
What a surprising thing!


a storyteller.[42]
raison d'être
"reason for being": justification or purpose of existence.
to be in someone's "good graces"; to be in synch with someone; "I've developed a rapport with my co-workers"; French for: relationship.
the establishment of cordial relations, often used in diplomacy.[43]
scouting; like connoisseur. Modern French uses an "a," never a "o" (as in reconnoissance). In French, it also means 'gratitude'.
lit. "rebirth", a reintroduction of something previously deemed outdated; in particular, a cultural movement in the 14-17th centuries marked by a return to classical aesthetics.
a stock of plays, dances, or pieces that a company or a performer knows or is prepared to perform; the whole body of items that are regularly performed.
reporting; journalism.
répondez s'il vous plaît. (RSVP)
Please reply. Though francophones may use more usually "prière de répondre," it is common enough.
a restaurant owner.[44]
a quick retort in speech or action, or in fencing, a quick thrust after parrying a lunge.[45]
Rive Gauche
the left (southern) bank (of the River Seine in Paris). A particular mindset attributed to inhabitants of that area, which includes the Sorbonne
roi fainéant
lit. "do-nothing king": an expression first used about the kings of France from 670 to 752 (Thierry III to Childeric III), who were puppets of their ministers. The term was later used about other royalty who had been made powerless, also in other countries, but lost its meaning when parliamentarism made all royals powerless.
a part or function of a person in a situation or an actor in a play.
roman à clef
lit. "novel with a key": an account of actual persons, places or events in fictional guise.[46]
an openly debauched, lecherous older man.
a cooked mixture of flour and melted butter (or other fat) used as a base in soups and gravies.


lit. "cold blood": coolness and composure under strain; stiff upper lip. Also pejorative in the phrase meurtre de sang-froid ("cold-blooded murder").
lit. "without knee-breeches," a name the insurgent crowd in the streets of Paris gave to itself during the French Revolution, because they usually wore pantaloons (full-length pants or trousers) instead of the chic knee-length culotte of the nobles. In modern use: holding strong republican views.
lit. "jumped", from the past participle of the verb sauter (to jump), which can be used as an adjective or a noun; quickly fried in a small amount of oil, stir-fried. ex: sauté of veau.
lit. "knowing": a wise or learned person; in English, one exceptionally gifted in a narrow skill.
lit. "know how to do"; to respond appropriately to any situation.
fact of following conventional norms within a society; etiquette (etiquette also comes from a French word, étiquette).
an assumed name, a nickname (often used in a pejorative way in French).[48]
lit. "oneself saying"; so-called; self-described.
fashionable; polished.
an evening party.
a wine steward.
a very small amount. (In French, it can also mean "suspicion".)
soupe du jour
lit. "soup of the day", the particular kind of soup offered that day.
succès d'estime
lit. "success of esteem; critical success"; sometimes used pejoratively in English.[49]


chalkboard. The meaning is broader in French: all types of board (chalkboard, whiteboard, notice board…). Refers also to a painting (see tableau vivant, below) or a table (chart).
tableau vivant
lit. "living picture"; the term describes a striking group of suitably costumed actors or artist's models, carefully posed and often theatrically lit.
orange-brown, "rust" colour, not commonly used outside heraldic emblazoning.
lit. "head to head"; an intimate get-together or private conversation between two people.
the process of dressing or grooming. Also refers in French, when plural (les toilettes), to the toilet room.
torsades de pointes
lit. "twisting around a point", used to describe a particular type of heart rhythm.
lit. "touched" or "hit!": acknowledgment of an effective counterpoint or verbal riposte; comes from terminology in the sport of fencing. Not understandable in modern French, as "touché" means "emotionally touched".
tour de force (also tour-de-force)
lit. "feat of strength": a masterly or brilliant stroke, creation, effect, or accomplishment.[50][51]
tout court
lit. "all short": typically used in philosophy to mean "nothing else", in contrast to a more detailed or extravagant alternative. For instance, "Kant does not believe that morality derives from practical reason as applied to moral ends, but from practical reason tout court".
tout de suite
right now, immediately. Often mangled as "toot sweet".
lit. "slice": one of several different classes of securities involved a single financial transaction.[52]
during a medical emergency or disaster, the process of determining the priority of medical treatment or transportation based on the severity of the patient's condition.
a woman who knits and gossips; from the women who knitted and sewed while watching executions of prisoners of the French Revolution.
lit. "trick the eye"; photographic realism in fine-art painting or decorative painting in a home.
trou de loup
lit. "wolf hole"; a kind of booby trap.


lit. "goes and comes" ; the continual coming and going of people to and from a place.[53]
an invited man/woman for a show, or "one who has come"; the term is unused in modern French, though it can still be heard in a few expressions like bienvenu/e (literally "well come": welcome) or le premier venu (anyone; literally, "the first who came").
vin de pays
lit. "country wine"; wine of a lower designated quality than appellation contrôlée.
Salad with vinaigrette dressing
diminutive of vinaigre (vinegar): salad dressing of oil and vinegar.
vis-à-vis (also vis-a-vis)
lit. "face to face [with]": in comparison with or in relation to; opposed to. From vis, an obsolete word for "face", replaced by visage in contemporary French.[54] In French, this is also a real estate vocabulary word, meaning that your windows and your neighbours' are within sighting distance (more precisely, that you can see inside of their home).
vive […]!
"Long live…!"; lit. "Live"; as in "Vive la France !", Vive la République !, Vive la Résistance !, Vive le Canada !, or Vive le Québec libre ! (long live free Quebec, a sovereigntist slogan famously used by French President Charles de Gaulle in 1967 in Montreal). Unlike viva (Italian and Spanish) or vivat (Latin), it cannot be used alone; it needs a complement.
vive la différence !
lit. "[long] live the difference"; originally referring to the difference between the sexes; the phrase may be also used to celebrate the difference between any two groups of people (or simply the general diversity of individuals).
voilà !
lit. "see there"; in French it can mean simply "there it is"; in English it is generally restricted to a triumphant revelation.
frenchified form of Italian volta faccia, lit. "turn face", an about-face, a maneuver in marching; figuratively, a complete reversal of opinion or position.
voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?
"Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?" or more appropriately, "Will you spend the night with me?" In French, coucher is vulgar in this sense. In English it appears in Tennessee Williams's play A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as in the lyrics of a popular song by Labelle, "Lady Marmalade."
lit. "someone who sees"; a Peeping Tom.[55]


zut alors!
"Darn it!" or the British expression "Blimey!" This is a general exclamation (vulgar equivalent is merde alors ! "Damn it!"). Just plain zut is also in use, often repeated for effect: zut, zut et zut ! There is an album by Frank Zappa, punningly titled Zoot Allures. The phrase is also used on the Saturday Night Live Weekend Update sketch by recurring character Jean K. Jean, played by Kenan Thompson.

Not used as such in French

Through the evolution of the language, many words and phrases are no longer used in modern French. Also there are expressions that, even though grammatically correct, do not have the same meaning in French as the English words derived from them. Some older word usages still appear in Quebec French.

personal military or fighting armaments worn about one's self; has come to mean the accompanying items available to pursue a mission, or just accessories in general. In French, means a funny or ridiculous clothing; often a weird disguise or a getup, though it can be said also for people with bad taste in clothing.
an inlaid or attached decorative feature. Lit. "applied," though this meaning does not exist as such in French, the dictionary of the Académie française indicates that in the context of the arts, arts appliqués is synonym of decorative arts.
lit. "after skiing", socializing after a ski session; in French, this word refers to boots used to walk in snow (e.g. MoonBoots).
a skilled performer, a person with artistic pretensions. In French: an artist. Can be used ironically for a person demonstrating little professional skill or passion.
arrêt à bon temps
A counterattack that attempts to take advantage of an uncertain attack in fencing. Though grammatically correct, this expression is not used in French. The term arrêt exists in fencing, with the meaning of a "simple counteroffensive action"; the general meaning is "a stop". A related French expression: s'arrêter à temps (to stop in time).
A film director, specifically one who controls most aspects of a film, or other controller of an artistic situation. The English connotation derives from French film theory. It was popularized in the journal Cahiers du cinéma: auteur theory maintains that directors like Hitchcock exert a level of creative control equivalent to the author of a literary work. In French, the word means "author", but some expressions like cinéma d'auteur are also in use.
au naturel
nude; in French, literally, in a natural manner or way (au is the contraction of à le, masculine form of à la). It means "in an unaltered way" and can be used either for people or things. For people, it rather refers to a person who does not use make-up or artificial manners (un entretien au naturel = a backstage interview). For things, it means that they have not been altered. Often used in cooking, like thon au naturel: canned tuna without any spices or oil. Also in heraldry, meaning "in natural colours," especially flesh colour, which is not one of the "standard" colours of heraldry.
à la mode
fashionable; or with ice cream (in the US), or with cheese (in some US regions). In French, it mainly means "fashionable" but is occasionally a culinary term usually meaning something cooked with carrots and onions, as in boeuf à la mode.
bête noire
a scary or unpopular person, idea, or thing, or the archetypical scary monster in a story; literally "black beast." In French, être la bête noire de quelqu'un ("to be somebody's black beast") means that you're particularly hated by this person or this person has a strong aversion against you, regardless of whether you're scary or not. The dictionary of the Académie française admits its use only for people, though other dictionaries admits it for things or ideas too. It also means that one is repeatedly defeated by a person (for instance, "Nadal is the bete noire of Roger Federer"). Colloquial in French.
a clothing store, usually selling designer/one off pieces rather than mass-produced clothes. Can also describe a quirky and/or upmarket hotel. In French, it can describe any shop, clothing or otherwise.
In English, a boutonnière is a flower placed in the buttonhole of a suit jacket. In French, a boutonnière is the buttonhole itself.
c'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre
"it is magnificent, but it is not war" — quotation from Marshal Pierre Bosquet commenting on the charge of the Light Brigade. Unknown quotation in French.
cause célèbre
An issue arousing widespread controversy or heated public debate, lit. 'famous cause'. It is correct grammatically, but the expression is not used in French.
chacun à son goût
the correct expressions in French are chacun ses goûts / à chacun ses goûts / à chacun son goût: "to each his/her own taste(s)".
a classical "art song," equiv. to the German Lied or the Italian aria; or, in Russian, a cabaret-style sung narrative, usually rendered by a guttural male voice with guitar accompaniment. In French, it simply means a song.
a manor house or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions. The word château is also used for castles in French, so where clarification is needed, the term château fort ("strong castle") is used to describe a castle.
in English, a person who cooks professionally for other people. In French, a professional cook is a restaurateur. A chef (literally "head"), means a master cook or chief cook. Also, sous-chef, the second-in-command, directly under the head chef. Additionally, in a work context, a chef is one's boss.
cinq à sept
extraconjugal affair between five and seven pm. In French, though it can also mean this, it primarily means any relaxing time with friends between the end of work and the beginning of the marital obligations.
a group of admirers; in French, la claque is a group of people paid to applaud or disturb a piece at the theatre, though the common meaning of "claque" is "a slap"; clique is used in this sense (but in a pejorative way).
an expert in wines, fine arts, or other matters of culture; a person of refined taste. It is spelled connaisseur in modern French.
A bouquet of flowers worn on a woman's dress or worn around her wrist. In French, it refers to a woman's chest (from shoulder to waist) and, by extension, the part of a woman's garment that covers this area.
coup de main (pl. coups de main)
a surprise attack. In French, [donner] un coup de main means "[to give] a hand" (to give assistance). Even if the English meaning exists as well (as in faire le coup de main), it is old-fashioned.
coup d'état (pl. coups d'État)
a sudden change in government by force; literally "hit (blow) of state." French uses the capital É, because the use of a capital letter alters the meaning of the word (État: a State, as in a country; état: a state of being). It also cannot be shortened as coup, which means something else altogether in French.
first public performance of an entertainment personality or group. In French, it means "beginning." The English meaning of the word exists only when in the plural form: [faire] ses débuts [sur scène] (to make one's débuts on the stage).
a low-cut neckline, cleavage. In French it means: 1. action of lowering a female garment's neckline; 2. Agric.: cutting leaves from some cultivated roots such as beets, carrots, etc.; 3. Tech. Operation consisting of making screws, bolts, etc. one after another out of a single bar of metal on a parallel lathe.
a decisive step. In French, it means a preparing step often used in the plural form, or a distinctive way of walking.
a neighbourhood general/convenience store, term used in eastern Canada (often shortened to dép or dep). This term is commonly used in Canadian French; however, in France, it means a repairman. In France, a convenience store would be a supérette or épicerie [de quartier].
one who has emigrated for political reasons. French also use the word exilé (exiled) or even "exilé politique".
A request to repeat a performance, as in Encore!, lit. 'again'; also used to describe additional songs played at the end of a gig. Francophones would say «Une autre !» ('Another one!') or «Bis !» to request « un rappel » or « un bis ».
en masse
in a mass or group, all together. In French, masse refers only to a physical mass, whether for people or objects. It cannot be used for something immaterial, like, for example, the voice: "they all together said 'get out'" would be translated as ils ont dit 'dehors' en chœur ([like a chorus]). Also, en masse refers to numerous people or objects (a crowd or a mountain of things).
en suite
as a set (not to be confused with ensuite, meaning "then"). Can refer, in particular, to hotel rooms with attached private bathroom, especially in Britain where hotels without private facilities are more common than in North America. In French, suite, when in the context of a hotel, already means several rooms following each other. J'ai loué une suite au Ritz would be translated as "I rented a suite at the Ritz." En suite is not grammatically incorrect in French, but it is not an expression in itself and it is not used.
lit. "entrance"; in French, the first dish that starts a meal, i.e. the entrance to the meal. Synonym of "hors d'œuvre". The main dish or "plat de résistance" comes after the entrée. In American English, the meaning has migrated to "main dish". In other varieties of English it maintains its French meaning.
a fencing weapon descended from the duelling sword. In French, apart from fencing (the sport) the term is more generic: it means sword.
a writing table. It is spelt écritoire in modern French.
a published exposure of a fraud or scandal (past participle of "to expose"); in French refers to a talk or a report on any kind of subject.
a stereotypically effeminate gay man or lesbian (slang, pronounced as written). In French, femme (pronounced 'fam') means "woman."
fin de siècle
comparable to (but not exactly the same as) turn-of-the-century but with a connotation of decadence, usually applied to the period from 1890 through 1910. In French, it means "end of the century," but it isn't a recognized expression as such.
a strength, a strong point, typically of a person, from the French fort(e) (strong) and/or Italian forte (strong, esp. "loud" in music) and/or Latin forte (neuter form of fortis, strong). French uses fort(e) for both people and objects.
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, "In forte we have a word derived from French that in its "strong point" sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \'for-"tA\ and \'for-tE\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation \'fort\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with English for [French doesn't pronounce the final "t"]. All are standard, however. In British English \'fo-"tA\ and \'fot\ predominate; \'for-"tA\ and \for-'tA\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English."
The New Oxford Dictionary of English derives it from fencing. In French, le fort d'une épée is the third of a blade nearer the hilt, the strongest part of the sword used for parrying.
hors d'oeuvre
term used for the snacks served with drinks before a meal. Literally "outside of the work". The French use apéritif to refer to the time before a meal and the drinks consumed during that time, yet "hors d'œuvre" is a synonym of "entrée" in French and means the first dish that starts a meal.
la sauce est tout
"The sauce is everything!" or "The secret's in the sauce!" Tagline used in a 1950s American television commercial campaign for an American line of canned food products. Grammatically correct but not used in French, where one might say Tout est dans la sauce or C'est la sauce qui fait (passer) le poisson.
the sign above a theater that tells you what is playing. From marquise, which means not only a marchioness but also an awning. Theater buildings are generally old and nowadays there is never such a sign above them; there is only the advertisement for the play (l'affiche).
nostalgie de la boue
"yearning for the mud"; attraction to what is unworthy, crude or degrading.[56] Though grammatically correct, it is not used in French.
out of the ordinary, unusual. In French, it means outraged (for a person) or exaggerated, extravagant, overdone (for a thing, esp. a praise, an actor's style of acting, etc.); in that second meaning, belongs to "literary" style.
out of fashion. The correct expression in French is passé de mode. Passé means past, passed, or (for a colour) faded.
a woman's dressing gown. In French it is a bathrobe. A dressing gown is a robe de chambre (lit. a bedroom dress).
pièce d'occasion
"occasional piece"; item written or composed for a special occasion. In French, it means "second-hand hardware." Can be shortened as pièce d'occas' or even occas' (pronounced /okaz/).
portemanteau (pl. portemanteaux)
in English a portmanteau is a large piece of luggage for clothes that opens (like a book or a diptych) into two parts. From this literal sense, Lewis Carroll, in his novel Through the Looking Glass playfully coined a further figurative sense for portmanteau meaning a word that fuses two or more words or parts of words to give a combined meaning. In French, lit. a 'coat-carrier', originally a person who carried the royal coat or dress train, now a large suitcase; more often, a clothes hanger. The equivalent of the English/ Lewis-Carroll portemanteau is un mot-valise (lit. a suitcase word).
medley, mixture; French write it pot-pourri, literally 'rotten pot': primarily a pot in which different kinds of flowers or spices are put to dry for years for the scent.
a concise summary. In French, when talking about a school course, it means an abridged book about the matter. Literally, précis means precise, accurate.
refers to the first performance of a play, a film, etc. In French, it means "the first", and is used only for a live performance.
a type of author intrusion in which a writer inserts a character to argue the author's viewpoint; alter ego, sometimes called 'author avatar'. In French, a raisonneur is a character in a play who stands for morality and reason, i.e., not necessarily the author's point of view. The first meaning of this word though is a man (fem. raisonneuse) who overdoes reasonings, who tires by objecting with numerous arguments to every order.
lit. searched; obscure; pretentious. In French, means 'sophisticated' or 'delicate', or simply 'studied', without the negative connotations of the English.
lit. "present yourself" or "proceed to"; a meeting, appointment, or date in French, but in English has taken on other overtones. Always hyphenated in French: rendez-vous. Its only accepted abbreviation in French is RDV.
repetition of previous music in a suite, programme, etc. In French, it may mean an alternate version of a piece of music, or a cover version. To express the repetition of a previous musical theme, French would exclusively use the Italian term coda.
in North American English, a document listing one's qualifications for employment. In French, it means summary; French speakers would use instead curriculum vitæ, or its abbreviation, C.V. (like most other English speakers).
risqué (also risque) 
sexually suggestive;[57] in French, the meaning of risqué is "risky," with no sexual connotation. Francophones use instead osé (lit. "daring") or sometimes dévergondé (very formal language). Osé, unlike dévergondé, cannot be used for people themselves, only for things (such as pictures) or attitudes.
lit. "red"; 1) red makeup, also called blusher; 2) in Canadian football, awarded when the ball is kicked into the end zone by any legal means, other than a successful field goal, and the receiving team does not return, or kick, the ball out of its end zone.
a gathering, usually using a 'medium', attempting to communicate with the dead. In French, the word means 'sitting' and usually refers to any kind of meeting or session.
table d'hôte (pl. tables d'hôte)
in English, when used it usually refers to type of meal: a full-course meal offered at a fixed price. However, in French, it refers to a type of lodging: the closest English equivalent would be "a bed & breakfast" or "B&B." The origin of the meaning (for French speakers) is that at a table d'hôte (literally "table of the house" or "table of the host"), unlike at a full-service purpose-built hotel, all patrons eat together at the host's table, whatever the family have prepared for themselves (typically traditional regional dishes). Indeed, in France today a lodging labelled "table d'hôte" might perhaps not even offer food; the appellation meaning what an English-speaker would think of as a "bed & breakfast -style" family-home lodging (as opposed to a purpose-built hotel).
tableau vivant (pl. tableaux vivants, often shortened as tableau)
in drama, a scene where actors remain motionless as if in a picture. Tableau means painting, tableau vivant, living painting. In French, it is an expression used in body painting.
acknowledgment of an effective counterpoint. In French, used for "emotionally touched".
a brief description; a short scene. In French, it is a small picture, and now in some European countries also means 'permit for driving on motorways.'

Found only in English

A Canadian aide-de-camp
"camp assistant"; in the army, a military assistant to a senior military officer (heads of State are considered military officers because of their status as head of the army). In Canada, it may also refer to the honorary position a person holds as a personal assistant to a high civil servant. It exists in French too but is written aide de camp (without any hyphens).
five-petal, five-leaf flower of the genus Potentilla, family Rosaceae; also a circular 5-lobed ornamental design. Spelled quintefeuille in French.
cri de cœur
"cry from the heart": an impassioned outcry, as of entreaty or protest. In French, the exact expression is cri du cœur.
a class of women of ill repute; a fringe group or subculture. Fell out of use in the French language in the 19th century. Frenchmen still use une demi-mondaine to qualify a woman that lives (exclusively or partially) off the commerce of her charms but in a high-life style.
double entendre
a figure of speech wherein a word or phrases can be taken to have two distinct coherent meanings, most often in a fashion that is suggestive and/or ironic. "Entendre" is an infinitive verb ("to hear"), not a noun; a correct rendering would be "à double entente", an adjectival phrase meaning "of a double understanding or double interpretation" (literally, "with a double hearing"). The modern French phrase is "à double sens".
in lieu (of)
"in place (of)": a hybrid phrase, partially translated from the existing French phrase au lieu.
léger de main (legerdemain)
"light of hand": sleight of hand, usually in the context of deception or the art of stage magic tricks. Meaningless in French, and has no equivalent.
maître d'
translates as master o'. Francophones would say maître d'hôtel (literally "master of the house" or "master of the establishment") instead (French never uses "d'" alone). In French as in English, "maître d'" means the "head waiter", the manager of the service side.
A robe or a dressing gown, usually of sheer or soft fabric for women. French uses négligé (masculine form) or nuisette. In French, the word négligée qualifies a woman who neglects her appearance.
pièce de résistance (piece de resistance)
the best; the main dish in a meal, or the main item in a series, literally "a piece that resists."[58] Francophones use plat de résistance (main dish).
succès de scandale
"Success through scandal"; Francophones might use succès par médisance.
voir dire
a trial within a trial, or (in America) jury selection (Law French). Literally "to speak the truth."[59] (Anglo-Norman voir [truth] is etymologically unrelated to the modern French voir [to see].)[60] In modern American court procedure, the examination of prospective jurors for their qualification to serve, including inherent biases, views and predelictions; during this examination, each prospective juror must "speak the truth" so that counsel and the court may decide whether they should remain on the jury or be excused. In England and Wales, the expression is used to refer to a "trial within a trial," during which a judge hears evidence in the absence of the jury, typically to decide whether a certain piece of evidence should be allowed to be presented to the jury or not. For example, a judge might hold a "voir dire" to determine whether a confession has been extracted from a defendant by an unfair inducement in order to decide whether the jury should hear evidence of the confession or not.

French phrases in international air-sea rescue

International authorities have adopted a number of words and phrases from French for use by speakers of all languages in voice communications during air-sea rescues. Note that the "phonetic" versions of spelling are presented as shown and not the IPA.

(sécurité, "safety") the following is a safety message or warning, the lowest level of danger.
(panne, "breakdown") the following is a message concerning a danger to a person or ship, the next level of danger.
([venez] m'aider, come to help me"; aidez-moi means "help me") the following is a message of extreme urgency, the highest level of danger. (MAYDAY is used on voice channels for the same uses as SOS on Morse channels.)
(silence, "silence") keep this channel clear for air-sea rescue communications.
(silence fini, "silence is over") this channel is now available again.
(prudence, "prudence") silence partially lifted, channel may be used again for urgent non-distress communication.
(médical, "medical") medical assistance needed.

It is a serious breach in most countries, and in international zones, to use any of these phrases without justification.

See Mayday (distress signal) for a more detailed explanation.

See also


  1. "Why Study French". Athabasca University.
  2. "I like my nature programmes à la Attenborough, where Nature is the subject matter and the presenter remains unobtrusive," Christina Odone, Moving experiences should be private, The Daily Telegraph, Thursday, September 12, 1996.
  3. See the definition given in CNRTL's Trésor de la langue française: "Subst. masc. Boisson généralement alcoolisée, réputée stimulante pour l'appétit", CNRTL.
  4. The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, third edition, edited by R.W. Burchfield, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996, p. 98-99.
  5. "Except for the strong possibility that – like former Bishop Roddy Wright of Argyll and the Isles – I would, in fact, be breaking off to pen a billet-doux to a divorcée of the parish, or a furtive birthday card to my secret teenage son," Mark Lawson, The boy who would be Pope, The Guardian Weekly, Saturday 21 September 1996.
  6. Eric Partridge: Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 1951
  7. "Step forward Naomi Campbell, supermodel, sometime novelist and now chanteuse, whose La La La song has sold 1.7 m copies in Japan alone," John Harlow, Pop world laments dying scream of the teenyboppers chorus, The Sunday Times, 18 August 1996.
  8. The meaning and origin of the expression: Cherchez la femme, The Phrase Finder.
  9. "Bush and his confrères are personally implicated in the current wave of corporate scandals," Jonathan Freedland, How British Could Lose, The Guardian of London, Wednesday, July 24, 2002
  10. "Altogether it was a fabulous coup de théâtre and a stunning deus ex machina," A. A. Gill, Hello dollies, everywhere, The Sunday Times, News Review, 27 October 1996.
  11. "Mother, 14, is denied school crèche," The Times, Saturday August 31, 1996.
  13. (in French)
  14. "Working during the summer is de rigueur for the majority of students," Peter and Lynne Boundy, When parents are on the breadline, The Times, Tuesday September 10, 1996.
  15. "a sweet but intoxicating digestif," Satyr, Into the mouths of babes and sucklings, The Observer, Business, 18 August 1996.
  16. "But then the dossier will be buried and with it the real truth," Roger Faligot, Grave issue that won't die down, The European, 8–14 August 1996.
  17. "The late Elizabeth David, the doyenne of cookery writers, must be turning in her grave," Evening Standard, London's Diary, Thursday, 12 September 1996.
  18. "Vanity Fair, that glossy barometer of 'the importance of being fabulous', is planning an extended spread on London as the 'happening' city du jour," Douglas Kennedy, We're finally speaking their language, The Sunday Times, The Culture, 27 October 1996.
  19. "I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb," Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice, 1813.
  20. Merriam-Webster OnLine
  21. Decadence.
  22. "Ruby day is a demi-clad femme fatale in pantomime boy's clothing, channelling Liza Minelli and EF Benson's Quaint Irene - as alluring to women as she is to men. You can just about see how it might épater la bourgeoisie, without feeling for a second any outrage is justified," Rowan Pelling, How is this painting 'pornographic' and 'disgusting'?, The Guardian, Tuesday 8 July 2014.
  23. "May I remind your readers that planning permission has not yet been sought for the [Foster] tower, nor is it a fait accompli," Paul Drury (English Heritage), Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 18 August 1996
  24. Evelyn Waugh was very close to not being asked back to La Mauresque after one grave faux pas that Maugham, known for his stammer, did not find amusing. To his host's question about what a certain individual was like, Waugh replied characteristically, 'a pansy with a stammer'. He recalled, "All the Picassos on the wall blanched, but Maugham remained calm", John Whitley, A little place in the sun, Telegraph Magazine, 17 August 1996.
  25. "Some femmes fatales play to a man's sexuality, some to his intelligence, but she just played to my damn ego," Ed Rollins, Arianna, News Review, The Sunday Times, 11 August 1996.
  26. "Ed Victor, doyen of literary agents and habitué of the Hamptons, a celebrity playground in Long Island, New York State," P.H.S., The Times Diary, The Times, Saturday September 21, 1996.
  27. "The French right-wing daily [Le Figaro] pleads for tolerance of American hauteur," Press Watch, The European, 8–14 August 1996.
  28. "This has provoked speculation that Yeltsin is too ill to be operated on. Perhaps the two German doctors offering their services can help resolve the impasse," Carey Scott, Inside Moscow, The Sunday Times, 15 September 1996.
  29. "An investigation was started over allegations that the local jeunesse dorée had been involved in a drugs, drink and sex orgy in the cemetery," Roger Faligot, Grave issue that won't die down, The European, 8–14 August 1996.
  30. "Brunswick Street [...] a small-scale version of Manhattan's East Village, [...] where there is always an intense would-be litterateur scribbling madly at a corner table in some smoky dive," Douglas Kennedy, Light relief in a tale of two cities, The Times Weekend, Saturday August 24, 1996.
  31. "She liked to alternate her smart parties with much more louche affairs at which drugs circulated as frequently as the cocktails," John Whitley, A little place in the sun, Telegraph Magazine, 17 August 1996.
  32. "I've always thought Anne Boleyn was a bit of a madame. She thought she could get away with anything," Interview of Keith Michell, The Observer Review, 27 October 1996.
  33. "Harry Walston had little option but to let [Graham] Greene form part of their unusual ménage à trois: Catherine had made it plain to Harry that if he wanted to keep her, Greene must remain part of her life," P.H.S., The Times Diary, The Times, Saturday September 21, 1996.
  34. "Bouncing out of the shower to investigate the commotion came a boxer whose nom de guerre says it all: the Grim Reaper," Peter Hillmore, Pendennis, The Observer Review, 27 October 1996.
  35. "Throughout the year, the acquisition of a new vase or photograph, or the discovery of an object trouvé – a skeleton leaf, a fragment of painted paper, an intriguingly shaped piece of wood – is the excuse for a bout of rearranging," Elspeth Thompson, Still life with Agnès, The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, 18 August 1996.
  36. "Fleur Cowles knows everybody who is anybody and mostly has the photographs to prove it. A saunter through her hallway produces more evidence of a networker par excellence," Mary Riddell, How to make friends, The Times, Tuesday August 13, 1996.
  37. "A Mirage of Modernity: pas de deux of Consumption and Production," title of Hong Kong researcher Yan Hairong' contribution to Unquiet Migration (Hsiao-Chuan Hsia ed.), 2009.
  38. "But just because a word has briefly become part of the nation's playground patois, does that qualify it for a place in the OED?," Jon Stock, Mish to explain – a rap session wiv yoof, Weekend Telegraph, Saturday August 17, 1996.
  39. "Prices of developments [at Rotherhithe] are rising as professionals working at Canary Wharf and elsewhere in Docklands seek a pied à terre," The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday August 14, 1996.
  40. Pour encourager les
  41. "[Daniel] Harding is a protégé of Sir Simon Rattle, himself once heralded as the great young hope of British Music," Nigel Reynolds, Britain's latest prodigy takes up toughest baton, The Daily Telegraph, Thursday, September 12, 1996.
  42. "Undoubtedly his modus operandi is not unlike the fluent pub raconteur who augments a story until he gets a laugh," Bill Bryson, A Yank at the court of Little England, The Sunday Times, 11 August 1996.
  43. "Support for the Tibetan movement stopped in 1971 when President Nixon and Henry Kissinger pursued a policy of rapprochement with China." Brent Navarro, Tibet: Assessing its Potential for China's Instability, September 15, 2007.
  44. "A startling number of American restaurateurs have turned to caviar chic as a sure way of winning customers," Tony Allen Mills, Style, 15 September 1996.
  45. "As one of the Prime Minister's most devoted supporters put it to me, 'Tory policy is based on the democratic philosophy of Aristotle and Pluto,' and was quite uncomprehending at my riposte that Pluto is a cartoon dog invented by Walt Disney," Brian Sewell, Greedy, vain and arrogant – the politicians who insult us all, Evening Standard, 13 August 1996.
  46. "This roman à clef sets out to recount the struggle between the media moguls Robert Maxwell [...] and Rupert Murdoch," Review by Laurence Meyer of Jeffrey Archer's The Fourth Estate, International Herald Tribune, Wednesday July 31, 1996.
  47. "The pictures he took of [Julia] Roberts — sans new boyfriend — will run in the American tabloid The Star," Videonasties, The Sunday Times, Style, 18 August 1996.
  48. "Nigel Lawson used to be known by the sobriquet of 'Smuggins'," Peter Hillmore, Pendennis, The Observer Review, 27 October 1996.
  49. "So they come up with a succes d'estime and a series of flops d'estime follow," Christopher Fildes, Take it easy Mr Bond, help is on the way – Miss Moneypenny will fix it, Business News, The Daily Telegraph, Saturday, August 17, 1996.
  50. "The focus of the salon was the magnificent chimney piece, a tour de force in moulded and faceted glass – and housing an up-to-date electric fire," Kenneth Powell, Mayfair's hidden treasure, The Sunday Review, The Sunday Telegraph, August 18, 1996
  51. "The film begins briskly, with [...] a tour-de-force action scene in mid-air", Nigel Andrews, Super hero into super-hulk, Financial Times, Thursday August 22, 1996.
  52. "It [the proposed agreement] also involves the banks swapping at least £2 billion debt into two tranches of convertible securities which would, if converted, give them between 25% and 80% of the fully diluted equity," Jonathan Ford, Tunnel debt talks hit conversion snag, Evening Standard, Business Day, Thursday, 12 September 1996.
  53. "This constant va-et-vient of fortune hunters is what gives Lhasa the impermanent, feverish atmosphere of a typical cowboy town," Ian Buruma, Tibet Disenchanted, China File, July 20, 2000 (first published in the July 20, 2000 issue of the New York Review of Books).
  54. "De Gaulle was always proud of displaying "la différence" vis-à-vis the Americans in the Arab world," Kirsty Lang, They're not all right, Jacques, The Sunday Times, 27 October 1996.
  55. "a nation of voyeurs: people who get their gustatory kicks from watching other people cook but don't actually do it themselves", Brenda Maddox, Cooking for kitchen voyeurs, The Times, Wednesday September 11, 1996.
  57. "Teacher Alan Faulkner warned: 'Some of the skirts were getting very risque and [...] the girls would face disciplinary action'," Daily Mail, Saturday September 21, 1996.
  58. "The living room, with its leather sofa from Harrods, payphone and glass coffee table, is the pièce de résistance," My friend the high-flying dole cheat, The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, August 14, 1996.
  59. voir dire The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2006)
  60. voir The Anglo-Norman Dictionary

Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.