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75 English Words Used in French: A Complete Guide to “Anglicismes”

Hundreds of English words and expressions, or anglicismes, have crept into the vast French lexicon, and they’re not just limited to the words of tech and pop culture.

Love it or hate it, learning modern French as it’s spoken involves appropriate use of the hybrid language derided as franglais.

In this post, we’re going to tell you the 75 most used English words in French, some French alternatives to these English words and some English words that are used in other ways.

We’ll also fill you in on the history of French-English language exchange.


English Words Used in French

A French cafe in London

I could compose a dictionary of anglicismes, but certain words are used more commonly than others. Many are so widespread that they’ve entered into “correct” usage. Here are some of the most used:

English Words in French that Have the Same Meaning

You won’t be misunderstood using certain common English words in French, such as:

French Alternatives To English Words

As would be expected, many of these words deal with modern (Americanized) lifestyles. These words have not been adopted without confrontation, and if you feel uncomfortable using them, nobody will be offended if you use these alternatives:

Although some alternatives, like remue-méninges, are unwieldy, others have been adopted into common usage. If you’re learning Quebec French, for example, take note that email and week-end have been replaced with courriel and fin de semaine.

English Words in French that Have a Different Meaning

The French use certain anglicisms that either mean something totally different in English, or aren’t even actually words in English.

Some of my favorites are:

Here is a very good list of “false” anglicisms to look out for.

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English and French: A History of Language Exchange

A bridge over the river in Paris

If contemporary discussions on franglais generally refer to the introduction of English words in the 20th century, French and English have a significant history of interaction before that to consider, too.

English and French Have Been Swapping Words for a Long Time

When William the Conqueror invaded England, he installed his cronies as England’s new nobility. For centuries, you had a French-speaking elite being served by the indigenous English-speaking population. Hence, English items like “cow,” “sheep” and “pig” became “beef,” “mutton” and “pork” when served to their French overlords. Many such examples of two words meaning the same thing can be found in English.

English Flourished in French in the 20th Century

There are several theories as to why anglicismes are entering French. In offices or other professional settings, for example, many such words are new concepts in French, like brainstorming or burn-out. They may be left as is since there’s no alternative. Plus, these words are often less cumbersome than proposed alternatives.

Similarly, in the tech field, or l’informatique, English words abound. In an Anglo-Saxon dominated industry, words like email, cloud computing and open-source are adopted so quickly that language authorities barely have time to react.

French Resistance to English Words in French

The Académie française in Paris

A language that doesn’t evolve is a dead language, so adopting foreign words should be a sign of the French language’s vitality.

Given how much French has influenced English, you wouldn’t think that some words going the other way would be newsworthy. And it might be easier to accept if French were adopting an equal amount of words from several languages. What rubs some people the wrong way is that most new foreign words are of English origin, and this transfer is one-sided. Indeed, French language purists have not taken this sitting down.

Let’s take a look at some key issues, institutions and events in this debate.

Loi Toubon (Toubon Law)

Adopted in 1994, the Toubon Law assures the primacy of French in French society.

In addition to assuring the citizenry’s right to be served in French, the law also mandates the use of French in the workplace, makes sure advertising occurs in French and obliges public media to use official French alternatives to anglicismes.

Dubbing vs. Subtitles

In contrast to many European countries that only provide subtitles to Anglophone television, France has a flourishing practice of dubbing English content.

The advantage of this for French learners is that dubbed content is easy to understand, often with each well-known actor being assigned a dubber, no matter what the film.

Some people point to dubbing as the reason why the French are not as strong in English as northern Europeans, who may benefit from using subtitles more frequently for English content.

Bill 101

French in Quebec has been called the most regulated language in the world. The Quebecois have resisted assimilation in a sea of Anglophones for centuries. That they still exist as a viable Francophone community is amazing.

Bill 101, or the Charter of the French Language, makes French the official language in Quebec. It guarantees every Quebec citizen the right to receive government services in French, mandates business communication to the public in French and establishes the Quebec Office of the French Language and the Superior Council of the French Language, among other things.

By most metrics, the law has been successful. Francophones represent the vast majority of the population, and Quebec is one of the few places in the world where English is declining.

More controversially, Law 101 requires all immigrants, even Anglophones, to send their children to French-speaking schools, promotes francisation (think stop signs becoming Arrêt) in the public sphere and imposes stiff penalties on businesses that don’t communicate adequately in French.

Académie française

To understand the problem with anglicisms, it’s important to understand that French is much more regimented than English in general.

Since the founding of the Académie française, authoritative bodies have tried to instill “right” and “wrong” ways to communicate in French.

The Académie française is composed of illustrious personalities, mainly famous Francophone authors and academics, who guide the development of French and advise the French government on proper use.


Languages evolve, and English has influenced French in a large way. There are many sides to the issue, but franglais is real.

If you want to understand modern French, you’ll have to know how English words are used in the language.

Whether you’re a language purist or an SMS fanatic, it’s up to you to form your own opinion on and manner of dealing with English use in the French language.

And one more thing...

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