Top 25 Words We Borrowed From French

Modified on by isabell

Top 25 Words We Borrowed From French

Having a déjà-vu? How fitting! Yes, it seems like we’ve been here before. You may have already read our list of borrowed German words used in the English language every day; that list included some eye-openers, so we figured we’d give it another shot in another language!

French is the native language of approximately 80 million people worldwide – that is in fact less than the 100 million+ people who grow up with German as their mother tongue. However, German is spoken in less than 10 countries, almost all of which are located in Europe. In comparison, more than 50 countries all across the globe have French as an official language. With almost 400 million speakers in total, French is the 5th most widely spoken language in the world. Its influence on the English language is therefore even more significant than that of German, the number of phrases that have been adopted even greater. Many of these are showcased in Brainscape’s French Flashcards.

Without further ado, we now present to you the second part of our little series on borrowed words:

25 Words We Borrowed From French

1. déjà-vu = déjà-vu

déjà = already
vu (passé composé form of voir = to see) = seen
Already seen (before).

2. à la mode = à la mode (not used as such in French)

à (preposition) = in(to), at
la mode = way, mode
In the way (style) of.

3. cul-de-sac = cul-de-sac

cul (coll./vulgar) = bottom, ass
de (preposition) = from, of
sac = bag
Bottom (ass) of the bag.

4. RSVP = répondez s’il vous plaît

répondez, 2nd person plural of répondre = to reply, to answer
s’il vous plaît = please
[However, it is a compound of
s’ (abbrev. of si) = if
il = he/it
vous = you (formal)
plaît (3rd pers. sing. of plaire) = to care for, to please]
Reply, if it pleases you.

 5. chaise longue = chaise longue

chaise = chair
longue = long
Long chair.

 6. crème brûlée = crème brûlée

crème = cream
brûlée (participe passé of brûler = to burn) = burnt
Burnt cream.

 7. du jour = du jour

du (de = from, of + le = the) = of the
jour = day
Of the day.

 8. café au lait = café au lait

café = coffee
au (à = in; with + le = the) = in/with the
lait = milk
Coffee with milk.

 9. carte blanche = carte blanche

carte = card
blanche (feminine form of blanc) = white
White card.

 10. comme ci, comme ça = comme ci, comme ça

comme = like
ci = this
ça = that
Like this, like that.

 11. eau de toilette = eau de toilette

eau = water
de = from, of
toilette = toilette, wash [toiletter = to groom]
Grooming water.

 12. fait accompli = fait accompli (not used as a stand-alone)

fait = act, fact
accompli = accomplished
Accomplished fact.

 13. femme fatale = femme fatale

femme = woman
fatale = fatal, deadly
Deadly woman.

 14. film noir = film noir

film = movie
noir = black
Black movie.

 15. foie gras = foie gras

foie = liver
gras = fatty
Fatty liver.

 16. Grand Prix = Grand Prix

grand = great, large
prix = prize
Great prize.

 17. hors d’oeuvre = hors d’œuvre

hors = outside
d’ (de) = from, of
œuvre = work
Outside (of) the work.

 18. joie de vivre = joie de vivre

joie = joy
de = of
vivre = to live
Joy of living.

 19. laissez-faire = laissez faire

laissez, 2nd pers. plural of laisser = to let, to leave
faire = to do
Let do.

 20. ménage à trois = ménage à trois

ménage = household
trois = three
Household of three.

 21. objet d’art = objet d’art

objet = object
art = art
Object of art.

 22. raison d’être = raison d’être

raison = reason
être = to be
Reason for being.

 23. vis-à-vis = via-à-vis

vis = face
Face to face.

24.  avant-garde = avant-garde

avant = before, (in) advance (of)
garde = guard
Advance guard.

25.  faux pas = faux pas

faux = false, wrong
pas = step; move
False/wrong step.


Can you think of any other commonly used words that were borrowed from French? Shoot us a comment below and let us know what we missed! Have fun as you continue to Learn French.

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