French Summer Vocabulary: 12 Words to Beat the Heat

The expected forecast now in France varies between heat, holidays, sun and sandals.

You’re thriving so far, thanks to these essential cultural French summer expressions, but do you know your basics?

Whether you are a bronzed sun-seeking babe or a blistering rock lobster, stay cool with these twelve fundamental words and phrases for the summer.

12 French Summer Words to Beat the Heat

1. Été – Summer

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

It’s obvious which word we must learn first: “été” (summer). As with English, the seasons are not normally capitalized in French. Be sure to pay attention to the context in which “été” is used, because it’s also found in the perfect tenses of the verb “to be”.      

été (summer)    

J’adore l’été! (I love summer!)

2. Chaud – Hot

12 words to beat heat

What would a summer be if it wasn’t sizzling hot? When strolling along the French Riviera, cocktail in hand, you will need to know how to express your happiness in the heat. Enter:

chaud (hot)

Unlike English, to remark on your rising temperature in French you do not use the verb “to be”. Rather,  you “have”  hot, which is the literal translation from French to English. Conversely, this is the same as if you were hip deep in snow in the middle of December; you “have” cold.

Ooh la la, j’ai trop chaud!  (Wow, I am hot!)

This word has another meaning in colloquial speech. “Je suis chaud” can express an eagerness to go somewhere or do something when used in French slang. For example:      

Tu veux aller à la mer? (Do you want to go to the sea?)      

Carrément je suis chaud! (Yes, yes, yes let’s go to the sea! – Literally: “I am downright hot.”)

Be mindful of the context when using this expression, as it can be misinterpreted as having a sexual connotation – particularly if spoken by a female:      

Je suis chaud. (I am aroused.)

Remember the differences so as not to land yourself in “l’eau chaud” (hot water!)

3. Il fait beau – The weather is fine

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

This is an expression that aptly describes a summer in France. When casting your gaze upon an infinite blue canopy above, with only the sun to puncture the sky, you can release a satisfied, “Il fait beau!”. The phrase literally translates to “It makes beautiful,” but the phrase is a set French expression that is used to describe the weather. On a more familiar level, the expression can be likened to “what a beautiful day” or “the weather is fine”. This can be reversed by negating the phrase when the weather is less admirable, a concept mainly reserved for the other seasons! 

Il fait beau! (What a beautiful day!)  

Nous pouvons aller manger au parc, car il fait beau! (We can eat at the park, because the weather is nice.)

4. En vacances – On vacation

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

Summer is the seasonal home of time off. Like most places, when the heat is on, the family is “en vacances”. Neighboring Spain, northern Africa and seaside spots down south are all popular voyage destinations for recouping French.   

vacances (vacation, holiday)

Ou est tu? (Where are you?)    

Je suis en vacances! (I’m on vacation!)

5. La mer ou la montagne? – The ocean or the mountain?

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

It is the perpetual summer dilemna! Work has ceased, the sun is shining and the humidity is rising. Where are we going to go? To the ocean or the mountains? Favorites on the summer activity list, swimming and hiking, cause a rift between schedules. People either take the beaches by storm or traverse up rocky terrains in search of that good view buzz.

la mer (the sea)  

la montagne (the mountain)    

On va à la mer? (Are we going to the sea?)    

Non! La montagne! (No! The mountains!)

6. Maillot – Swimsuit

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

Baking “à la plage” or lazing poolside requires a specific dress code. Whether braving the beach in a bikini or snapping on some speedos, you will be tanning in “maillot” en français. This summer essential can also be expressed more formally as “maillot de bain”.    

maillot (bathing suit/swimsuit/swim trunks)

J’adore ton nouveau maillot! (I love your new swimsuit!)

7. Nager, se baigner – To swim

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

For those more athletic than the average beach bum, swimming laps or swimming for fitness is expressed by the verb “nager”. This word is really used to describe an act of swimming exercise, as opposed to mere playing, relaxing or bathing in water. If cooling off with water is still your style, but you are not one for swimming the butterfly for kilometers, the verb you want is “se baigner”. This is more accurately translated as “bathing”, and can refer to taking a bath as well.  

nager (to swim for exercise)    

Je nage chaque matin. (I swim each morning.)  

se baigner (to swim for leisure; to bathe)    

Je veux me baigner et me dètendre. (I want to take a dip into the water and relax.)

8. Crème glacée, glace – Ice cream

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

After your glorious day “dans le maillot” , it is only human to buy an ice cream for the journey home. Jotted around your aqua venue of choice should be stalls with the word “glace” advertised above. Take relief, as this means your biggest concern now is deciding whether to have French vanilla or tropical mango. Although “glace” also translates to “ice”, everyone says and understands it to be “ice cream” in the dessert realm.    

glace (ice cream)

9. Coup de soleil – Sunburn

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

If you are predisposed to the harsh realities of burn, peel and freckle, “coup de soleil” is a phrase you will get to know quite well. Literally meaning “blow of the sun” or “punch of the sun”, this term is for all the delicate people of the pale persuasion. We know the effort spent preventing and undoubtedly soothing our translucent visage from the nasty summer rays, however, with determination and grit we bravely battle summer year in and year out. Stay strong, invest in some aloe vera and slather on the zinc, because you have some terrible sunburn.  

coup de soleil (sunburn)    

J’ai attrapé des coups de soleil. (I got sunburnt.) 

10. Lunettes de soleil – Sun glasses

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

As much as we heart summer, there are some aspects, like the previous coup de soleil, that are less than desirable. Each season demands its own armor against the extremes, and what is a more staple summer weapon than a pair of trusty sunglasses?    

lunettes de soleil (sunglasses)

11. Faire un pique-nique – Have a picnic

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

France boasts a big pique-nique-ing culture that really comes to the fore in the summer. There is nothing more enjoyable than lounging along the Seine on a sunny day with some cheese, a baguette and a big bottle of “vin rouge”. In French one does not simply “have a picnic”, but rather they “make a picnic”.  

faire un pique-nique (have a picnic)  

On va faire un pique-nique dans le parc. (We had a picnic in the park.)

12. Rosé – Rosé

french summer vocabulary twelve words beat heat

Clinking a cheerful “santé” over a glass of crisp “rosé” is as synonymous with summer as shorts and sandy shoes. If there could be one flagship beverage for this French season it would be “rosé”. Written and pronounced the same as it is in English, “rosé” is a light pink wine that is sweet and chilled. Delicious!    

rosé (rosé)      

Ouvre le rosé, l’été est là! (Open the rosé, summer is here!)

Summer is fantastic in France, and with the above twelve summer words, keeping a cool head when handling the heat will be far easier than choosing between “la plage ou la piscine”.

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