15 French Slang Words Every French Learner Should Know

So, you’ve finally arrived in France.

You can’t wait to start practicing your French.

You go to a café and start chatting with a group of students.

However, they’re using words which you perhaps thought meant one thing, and which clearly mean another…

And suddenly, your French doesn’t seem all that good.

Perhaps you’ve learned enough French grammar, but not enough everyday French or casual French expressions.

And it might be your first taste of argot (French slang).

But don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.

Below is a list of some of the more widely used slang words, which we hope you find useful.

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15 French Slang Words Every French Learner Should Know

1 . Bordel

Bordel literally means brothel. However, these days bordel is more commonly used to describe a large mess. An example would be:

Range ta chambre. C’est le bordel. 
Clean your room. It’s a mess.

2 . Balle 

Balle as a singular, literally means bullet. Yet back in the day, balles was used as a slang word for francs, the French currency pre-2002. And when France moved on to the euro, balles moved with it and it is still sometimes used in reference to money. An example would be:

J’aime ton pantalon.
Merci. Je l’ai acheté au marché pour quinze balles.

I like your pants.
Thanks. I bought them at the market for 15 euros.

3. Baraque

The word baraque literally means shanty, or small house made of planks. However, recently the term has been adapted to refer to a house, or, as an adjective, baraqué,  someone who is really muscular.  For example:

On habite dans une grosse baraque avec 10 colocs.
We live in a large house with 10 other people.

En règle générale, les joueurs de rugby sont plus baraqués que les joueurs de foot.
Generally speaking, rugby players are more muscular than football players.

4. BG

These days BG is a popular acronym. It stands for beau gosse, which means hot guy. Gosse on it’s own though is slang for a child though so watch out! If you’re in Quebec, gosse is feminine and carries an entirely different connotation as a slang word for a part of the male anatomy that is generally used in the plural… So if you’re planning to use your slang in Canada, be aware of that difference, since there could be a few misunderstandings!

5 . BCBG

Another popular acronym, which is the French slang for preppy, is BCBG (bien chic bon genre).

6. Blé 

Blé literally translates as wheat in English. However, figuratively it has become a popular way of referring to money. (Another common way of referring to money in slang terms is fric or pognon). Here is an example:

Il gagne beaucoup de blé.
He earns a lot of money.

7. Bobo

Bobo is actually baby talk for une blessure (an injury)However, you will find that young people commonly use this term when referring to minor injuries such as cuts and bruises. An example might be:

Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?
J’ai un bobo sur le pied.

What’s the matter?
I have a scratch on my foot.

8. Bouffer

Bouffer literally means to puff up or balloon in size. However, it has become common practice to replace the word manger (to eat) with bouffer in everyday speech. And in turn, la bouffe is then used as another word for food. Here is an example:

J’ai trop mangé. J’ai bouffé un steak tartare avec des frites suivi d’une grosse tarte aux pommes.
I ate too much. I ate a steak tartare with fries followed by a big slice of apple tart.

Je suis allé en ville pour acheter de la bouffe.
I went into town to buy some food.

9. Une clope

A commonly used slang word, especially in Paris, is the argot for cigarette; une clope. For example:

T’aurais pas une clope?
You don’t happen to have a cig, do you?

10Kiffer 

Another term used by today’s generation, which you may not already know is the word  kiffer, which is slang for to like something (it works best with a hobby!). However, pay attention, if you kiffe quelqu’un, it implies that you desire that person. Here’s an example:

Je kiffe faire de la voile.
I really enjoy sailing.

Je kiffe ton frère.
like your brother. (I’m romantically interested in him).

11. Mec

The word mec is yet another commonly used slang term, and refers to boyfriends as well as guys in general. For example:

Il est beau, ce mec.
That guy is good-looking.

Tu viens avec ton mec?
Are you bringing your boyfriend?

Another type of slang that you might come across is verlan, which are French words spelled backwards, and often incorrectly, in slang. And while this concept might seem a bit intimidating at first, you will find that you pick it up in no time at all and probably without even realizing.

12. Meuf 

Our first example is meufwhich was originally femme. And, as with the word femme, this term can be used to refer to a female, or your girlfriend, although it can have pejorative connotations.

13. Relou

Our second example is relou, the verlan for lourd (heavy or taxing) and equivalent of chiant, which means annoying/exasperating. Here’s an example:

C’est trop relou!
That sucks!

14. Ouf 

Ouf is literally the French translation of the interjection phew as well as meaning crazy/awesome in verlan, being the backwards of fou (crazy/awesome).

On a fait un truc (de) ouf hier. 

*Here ’ouf’ can work as either an adjective, without the ’de’, or as a noun, with the ’d’. It’s up to you!

We did something crazy awesome yesterday.

15être vénère

And finally, our last slang word for today is another way of expressing that you are annoyed or angry; être vénèrewhich is the verlan of être énervé. An example would be quite simple:

Mathieu est vénère.
Matthew is annoyed.

(It is important here to pay attention to your accents because vénéré means to be revered).  

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


 

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