French Verlan: A Cryptic, Popular Slang You Must Secretly Learn
Did you ever try speaking in a secret code language when you were young?
As French learners, you can look into French’s verlan. This used to be a secret language but is now popular slang, especially among younger people.
Verlan involves simply reversing the syllables of French words—for example, merci to cimer.
Learn some more of it with this guide, which takes you through how French verlan works plus common vocabulary!
- What Is Verlan?
- 10 French Verlan Slang Words You Must Learn
- How to Use Verlan
- And one more thing...
What Is Verlan?
Verlan, which is actually the French word à l’envers backwards or “reversed” (that’s what it translates to), is a form of Pig Latin that French speakers use in everyday talk—way, way more than an English speaker would ever use Pig Latin in their entire life.
It all began when French people chose to speak in code to hide information from social control and police forces. The information exchanged was usually related to illegal instances, but now the style of speaking in verlan has stuck. It’s now a cooler, cryptic slang that’s actively practiced by the younger French population—and it even found its way into music, like French hip hop and rap.
Verlan is actually much easier and faster to learn than regular French slang (argot). Yes, key word: faster.
Once you get the hang of it, it’ll be easy as pie, so here are 10 French words verlanisés to help get you started in the world of verlan à l’envers:
10 French Verlan Slang Words You Must Learn
1. Céfran (Français — French)
Céfran is categorized under the novice level of verlan. Cé–fran, as you can see, is the reversal of the syllables in français. By breaking up the word français at its syllables, fran-çais, you get cé–fran, céfran.
C’est un céfran ? (Is he French?)
2. Tromé (Métro — Metro)
Similiar to céfran, tromé is on the beginner’s side. It’s a two syllable word, tro–mé, which is the verlan of mé–tro.
Tromé is used almost all the time. You’ll hear it on the metro (duh), at parties or with friends who are familiar speaking to each other like this.
Vous êtes arrivés ici en tromé ? (Did you come here by metro?).
3. Cimer (Merci — Thank You)
Another one of those easy, peasy, lemon squeezy verlanisé words!
Mer–ci becomes ci–mer. Merci is also only made up of two syllables, and because no accent is needed, it could perhaps be the utmost effortless word of verlan. I’m not going to translate this one into English for you because, well, you should know what merci means!
You’ll hear cimer fluidly used by numerous young français. I’d consider it the most used verlan word of all.
T’es génial, cimer ! (You’re awesome, thank you!).
4. Ouf (Fou — Crazy)
Vous êtes fou! If you never heard of this one before, fou is the regular word in French for “crazy.”
This one might look tricky because it’s a short word with two vowels next to each other. I’m sure you’ve conceived that the breaking up of syllables involves splitting a word up at its vowels, but in the case of three-letter verlan words, there’s an exception.
Here’s how it looks: f–0u becomes ou–f. In this case you break up the vowels together and take the ending pair of letters and move them to the beginning of the word: fou – ouf.
The reason for this exception is due to the major element of sound. Ouf sounds more like fou backwards [foo – oof] than (uof) would.
Like cimer, ouf is also really, really common. A funny popular everyday expression using the verlanisé of fou aka ouf is:
Truc de ouf. (That’s crazy or it’s crazy).
C’était un truc de ouf ! (It was crazy!).
Truc translates to “thing” in French, and it stands for literally any old thing. Anything can be a truc. Try to remember this expression for next time and you’ll blow all your classmates, comrades and colleagues away!
5. Oim (Moi — Me)
Like to ouf, moi or oim is broken up the same way, via rule exception.
Again, the “M” or letter without a vowel stands alone in the break-up reversal. M–oi becomes oi–m. The reason is for priority of sound. Oim sounds more like moi backwards than iom would.
Viens chez oim ! (Come to my place!).
6. Meuf (Femme — Woman)
The envers (reverse) of femme, which I hope you know translates to “woman” is meuf.
Meuf is considered a more advanced word to verlaniser. You may be confused as to how femme becomes meuf, but here’s how the verlanisé of it looks:
Femme → fe–mme → mme–fe → mmefe → meuf
I know that even after this step-by-step explanation you still might not understand why femme becomes meuf, but as I mentioned before, sound is a number one rule!
When you try to say femme backwards by using the literal reversal (mmefe), it does not work whatsoever! The addition of the “U” and dropping the final “E” make meuf ring more like femme backwards.
Always remember that this is a language game, and that rules can be a little topsy turvy. That goes for any language in general. It’s just something that you’re supposed to know or memorize!
7. Reuf (Frère — Brother)
These next three verlan words on the list are going to apply the same rule as the one found in femme.
Frère, which is the word for “brother” in French, as you see, gets verlanisé into reuf.
There goes that “U” again! That’s another common change you’ll see with these next three words on the verlan list. Incorporating the “U” into these words and dropping the last “e” gives the word a better sound in its envers (reversed) version.
In the case of frère aka reuf, the second “r” is also dropped:
Frère → frè–re → re–frè → refre → reufre → reuf
Once you hear and say these words to yourself out loud you’ll see what I mean about the difference between the sound in reuf and refre. The extra “r” at the end of re-fre takes away from the original sound of frère, that is why it becomes reuf.
As I mentioned before, verlan is famously used within French hip hop and rap. Here’s the word frère (along with some others we’ve learned) used in action by a famous French rapper, Rohff. The title of the song is called “Classique.”
“Une keuf meuf, ou se faire poucave par son propre reuf.” (A female cop, who got snitched out by her own brother).
Yes I know, doesn’t nicely flow as much in English! But if you’ve noticed, meuf, one of the words we learned, is also thrown into the sentence, along with another that isn’t on the list: keuf. Keuf is verlan for “cop” or “police,” the envers of flic (which is argot for police).
Other famous French rappers who tend to use verlan in their lyrics are La Fouine and Sniper.
8. Reum (Mère — Mother)
Mère (mother) in verlan is reum. Like the previous two words on the list, the same rules apply. Here’s how this one looks:
Mère → mè–re → re–me → reume → reum
Let’s just say that if you’re living in France at a homestay with foreign French parents, calling your house mom reum probably won’t slide. They might not even know what it means, especially if they’re part of the older generation. Some house parents are on the younger side though. If they are, try to casually throw it in there, they might think it’s cute.
9. Teuf (Fête — Party)
Now we get to the cool stuff. Teuf, which is the envers of fête (party) is regularly used by the younger, hip generation:
Fête → te–ef → tefe → teufe → teuf
So when to use teuf? Whenever your heart desires. Because similar to ouf and cimer, teuf is an extremely favored verlan word.
So if you’re speaking in front of your French homestay mom and you’re sneakily planning to go to a secret French underground rave, then teuf would be the wise word to use.
Tu veux venir à la teuf ce soir ? (You wanna come to the party tonight?).
10. Vénère (Énervé — Angry)
So I saved the best for last, because this French word might describe how you feel right now, a little vénère aka énervé?
Vénère is the verlan of énervé, which is French for “angry” or “mad.”
Here’s one last switch-up:
énervé → én–ner–vé → vé–ne–ré → vénère
That was nice and easy.
Note: Be careful not to confuse vénère with the verb vénérer, which means to “venerate” or “worship” in French.
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How to Use Verlan
For the most part, this list of verlan vocabulary words has just a few of the prominently used. While all French words can technically be verlanisé, some are more commonly used than others.
It’s kind of hectic to literally verlaniser every French word in a sentence (though there are people who do it). Others try to even verlaniser a word that’s already been verlanisé (this is known as veul), which is the double verlan of the word verlan, making it even more cryptic—but let’s not get carried away.
Normally, there are only certain words within a sentence that are verlanisés. If you’re having trouble figuring out which words to “hide” during normal French speech, think about the word within the sentence that you want to be kept secret, that’s usually your best bet.
Verlan is part of informal French, so if you want to learn more conversational language and slang, you can look into the e-book from IE Languages. The book comes with plenty of audio, so you can learn to recognize slang and informal speech when you hear it in conversation.
Now that I’ve let you in on a little secret, chime in and try to detect verlan among young, cool, hip French speakers. You’ll be surprised at how much you actually hear!
And one more thing...
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