french words in english

French Words in English: Over 100 Words You Thought Were English… But Are Actually French

Did you know that you were already semi-French before actually deciding to learn the language?

At least 29 percent of the English language derives from le français, claiming French as the English language’s biggest influence—but wait, it gets better.

While a majority of English words with French roots have morphed, changing spelling and sound, there are endless everyday words we use in English that have remained purely French.

Here are more than 100 entirely French words that we use in English.


35 Common French Words Used in English

1. À la Carte

Meaning “according to a menu” in French, this phrase refers to choosing individual items off a menu in both languages.

Je voudrais des frites à la carte. (I would like an order of fries on their own.)

2. À la Mode

french words in english

This means “of the fashion” in French and is a way of describing something trendy right now.

In the US you will also see it used to indicate that a dish is served with ice cream. This must have hopped languages when serving pastry and vanilla ice cream was very fashionable in France.

C’est très à la mode !  (It’s very fashionable!)

3. Attaché

While this one literally means “attached” in French, English uses it to refer to someone who works for an ambassador.

Elle est attachée à l’ambassadeur du Canada. (She’s an attaché* to the Canadian ambassador.)

*The literal translation is “she is attached to the ambassador”

4. Avant-Garde

“Before guard” or “advance guard” are the literal translations of this French phrase.

English speakers know it as an innovative movement in the arts, usually pertaining to artists who are “advanced” in their fields.

The artistic meaning holds in French, but it can also mean the “front line.”

Andy Warhol était un artiste de l’avant-garde.  (Andy Warhol was an avant-garde artist)

5. Bijou

french words in english

The French word for a small gem or jewel, bijou has adopted a completely different meaning in the English language.

Amongst us English speakers, it’s considered a classy way to describe something stylish while implying that it’s small, like a bijou champagne bar.

Je vais vous acheter un bijou ! (I will buy you a jewel/item of jewelry!)

6. Bon Voyage

I think we’ve all heard this one when leaving on a trip of some kind. The French use this phrase to wish someone a “good trip,” and we use it the same way in English.

Bon voyage ! Tu vas me manquer ! (Have a good trip! I will miss you!)

7. Bureau

While the French version of this word refers to a physical desk, it also refers to an office, which is how English uses it. 

The English “bureau” tends to be used for more political or governmental offices, such as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

Le bureau des finances a refusé mon prêt. (The financial office denied my loan.)

8. Carte Blanche

french words in english

In English, this means to give someone the opportunity to do whatever they want to do, surrendering to their whim.

The literal translation is “white card” because when armies surrendered they would pass a white card to the enemy for them to write their terms of surrender on.

Nowadays, the French use this phrase the same way as we do!

Il avait carte blanche.  (He had the chance to do whatever he wanted.)

9. Chic

French fashion is known for its simple elegance. In French, someone who is chic is well-dressed. 

Now we use the same word in English when we see something that resembles that French style of casual class.

Elle est très chic. (She is so well-dressed.)

10. Cliché

In French, this word refers to something that has become so common that it’s overrated. The meaning is the same in English.

Leur mariage était tellement cliché. (Their wedding was so cliché.)

11. Connoisseur

french words in english

connoisseur is someone who is very knowledgeable about something—and we use it to mean the same thing in English. 

However it’s worth noting that connoisseur is outdated and rarely used in French these days, so you’ll most likely hear connaisseur or connaisseuse (the masculine and feminine forms, respectively) instead. 

Il est un connoisseur de vin. (He is a wine connoisseur.)

12. Cordon-Bleu

This literally means “blue ribbon,” and was once given to Bourbon knights of the highest order as a token of appreciation.

It has since changed meaning in French: it either refers to a cook of the highest standard, or a common dish where breaded chicken is cooked with ham and cheese.

In English, we use this phrase only to refer to the dish.

Je veux être un cordon-bleu. (I want to be a really good chef.)

13. Coup de grâce

During wartime, coup de grâce meant a person’s “blow of mercy” from a sword or rifle in a forgiving manner.

Nowadays, both French and English use coup de grâce as a figure of speech to describe a final straw, sort of like “the cherry on top.”

Il n’y avait même pas de moutarde dans mon sandwich, c’était le coup de grâce ! (There wasn’t even mustard in my sandwich, it was the coup de grâce!)

14. Cul-de-Sac

french words in english

“Butt of a bag,” meaning “bottom of the bag,” is the literal translation of cul-de-sac, though the original meaning has nothing to do with how English or French speakers actually use the phrase.

Cul-de-sac, mostly seen in real-estate writing, is an elegant English way to say the “dead end” of a road. The same phrase is seen as more informal in French.

Cette rue menait à un cul-de-sac. (This road has led to a dead end.) 

15. Débris

You may not have ever thought of this word as being super French, but it certainly is! Both French and English use this word to refer to broken pieces of material. 

La bombe a tout transformé en débris. (The bomb turned everything into debris.)

16. Déjà Vu 

“Already seen,” is the English translation of the French phrase we associate with that weird feeling of reliving a past experience.

In France you’ll hear this word on a daily basis, because it’s used to express “having re-seen” a person, place or things, not in another life or dimension. In other words, it’s a factual encounter.

The French do believe in the weird phenomenon, but have a different way of spelling it (with a hyphen), déjà-vu. There is no difference in pronunciation though, which is why context is always key!

As-tu déjà vu ce film ?  (Have you “already seen” this film?)

J’ai eu un sentiment déjà-vu. (I had [a feeling of] déjà vu.)

17. Eau de Toilette

french words in english

This translates literally to “toilet water.” However, it doesn’t mean this at all.

Toilette was the word for a dressing table cover and came to be associated with washing and dressing. You may already know that eau de toilette is a light perfume used for washing/dressing.

It now means the same thing in English and French, so you can rest assured that you won’t be sold toilet water at the local grand magasin (department store).

J’ai acheté une bonne eau de toilette. (I bought a good eau de toilette.)

18. Encore

For English speakers, encore is only related to show biz, shouted when you want a performer to return to the stage and continue the show.

In French, encore is used much more commonly as it literally means “again” or “another. “Yet,” “still” or “even” are more intricate translations. “Pas encore,” “not yet,” is commonly used too.

Il y a encore du riz.  (There’s still rice left)

Ce n’est pas encore l’heure. (It’s not time yet.)

The best way to see how these words are used differently in French and English is to hear how French flows when spoken by a native.

To do this you can try checking out videos on YouTube, or watching authentic French videos on FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Click here to check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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19. En Route

This literally means that something is “on the way” and will probably be used in reference to a delivery or someone driving somewhere.

Votre paquet est en route. (Your package is on the way.)

20. Exposé

french words in english

This literally translates to “exposed.” As a noun, it was originally used to mean an explanation that exposed the reasoning of a decision. In French, it’s used to refer to a presentation, like a lecture in class or a report in a professional setting.

When used in English, it means an in-depth tabloid story exposing something scandalous about a public figure.

L’étudiant a fait un exposé captivant sur l’histoire de l’art moderne. (The student gave an engaging presentation on the history of modern art.)

21. Façade

Façade has multiple uses. For one, it’s a fancy word in English for telling someone they’re “fake,” or more nicely, “putting up a front.”

“Frontage” or “face” is the literal English translation of this French word, but more commonly, in both English and French, façade is the “front” or “side” of a building.

La façade de cette maison est ancienne. (The façade of this house is old.)

22. Faux pas

This literally translates to “misstep.” Both languages use it to refer to something that isn’t generally acceptable in the social realm.

Crier dans une bibliothèque est un faux pas. (Screaming in the library is a faux pas.)  

23. Femme Fatale

french words in english

Used to describe a seductive woman with a dangerous streak, this is also one of those terms that’s used in English the same way as in French.

It translates literally to “deadly woman.” When you think about it, that’s quite boring compared to the glamour and sass we imply when we use the term in English.

Regardez, c’est une femme fatale !  (Look, she’s a femme fatale!)

24. Fiancé

Yes, this is another famous French word that slips by many of us. There is no translation since fiancé is, well, a fiancé.

Je vous présente mon fiancé. (I introduce you to my fiancé.) 

25. Gauche

Literally meaning “left” in French, this is often used in English to mean social awkwardness.

It may have gotten this meaning from how everything is more awkward for left-handed people in a right-handed world. 

Il est un peu gauche.  (He is a little awkward.)

26. Hors-d’œuvre

french words in english

“Out of work” is the literal translation of this phrase, as hors d’œuvre were once served out of the work of art (the main course) and thus, hors d’œuvre was born. 

Now, both languages use this to refer to small dishes that come before a main course such as deviled eggs, cheese and crackers, etc.

Les hors-d’œuvre étaient vraiment délicieux.  (The hors d’oeuvres were very delicious.)

27. Je Ne Sais Quoi

This French phrase is often translated as “that certain something” but literally translates into “I don’t know what.”

This is a universal phrase for a quality that’s hard to describe but very attractive. 

Elle avait un certain je ne sais quoi.  (She had a certain indescribable but attractive quality.)

28. Laisser faire

You’ll usually hear this one used to describe a management or coaching style. It literally means “let it happen” and demonstrates a relaxed, “hands-off” kind of attitude.

Il préfère laisser faire ses employés.  (He prefers to be hands-off with his employees.)

29. Matinée

french words in english

On the French side, matinée means “morning,” or the “entire morning” (from sunrise to noon).

In English, this word usually refers to the first showing of a movie or show that takes place in the morning.

While the French might also have their matinée movie deals, for them it refers to the “first showing” in the afternoon, not morning.

Une matinée de ballet.  (An afternoon performance of ballet.)

30. Mirage

To “look at” or “wonder at” is the literal translation of this French word. It also means to “mirror ” or “admire,” hence why English speakers use mirage to define a visual wish or desire.

J’ai cru voir une île; c’était un mirage. (I thought I saw an island; it was a mirage.)

31. Pot-pourri

Pot-pourri translated into English is “rotten pot.” In French it’s spelled pot-pourri or pot pourri, and has the same meaning as its English counterpart: fragranced dried flower, fruits and herbs used to get rid of bad odors.

J’ai acheté ce pot-pourri pour la salle de bain. (I bought this potpourri for the bathroom.)

32. Risqué

french words in english

In English, risqué takes an improper, indecent tone that’s sexually suggestive.

Risqué [rees-key] or risque [ri-skey], the latter sounding similar to how we say “risk” in English, are the two pronunciations in French which have the same and only meaning of “risk” in English.

Risqué may have moved into English because of Moulin Rouge, cabarets, and burlesque shows, but in French it only means “risk:” 

Il y a un risque d’avalanche. (There’s risk of an avalanche.)

33. R.S.V.P

You’ve been invited to countless weddings, showers and parties your whole life, but did you ever think about what R.S.V.P stands for? In case you never did, it’s an original French acronym:

Répondez s’il vous plaît.

This acronym in English means “Respond If It Pleases You” or “Respond If You Please.” 

34. Souvenir

If you’re returning from an amazing trip, you’ll no doubt bring back an amazing gift for yourself or friends, otherwise known as a souvenir—a tiny piece of memorabilia.

For English speakers, a souvenir is tangible, physical, and visible. For the French, the verb souvenir also means to “remember” or “recall.”

Je me souviens. (I remember.)

Peux-tu acheter un souvenir pour moi ? (Can you buy a souvenir for me?)

35. Touché

french words in english

English speakers use this French phrase after a smart aleck remark or quick, witty response. In fencing (or any battling), touché can also be a “hit.”

In French it simply means to “touch,” which is written similarly, but with no hidden meaning as we’ve created.

As-tu déjà touché un serpent ? (Have you ever touched a snake?)

Touché ! (You’re on!)

French Culinary Terms in English

man and woman cooking together

French food is delicious, so it’s no wonder that English borrowed a few words (and cooking ideas) from the language!

LoanwordEnglish MeaningFrench WordFrench MeaningFrench Example Sentence
Amuse-boucheBite-sized appetizer or palate cleanser Amuse-bouche Mouth amuser Le chef a préparé un amuse-bouche exquis pour ouvrir le repas. (The chef prepared an exquisite amuse-bouche to start the meal.)
Au gratinDish with a golden-brown crust on top Au gratin With gratings Les pommes de terre étaient au gratin, avec une délicieuse croûte au fromage. (The potatoes were au gratin, with a delicious cheesy crust.)
BéchamelCreamy white sauce made with butter, flour, and milk Béchamel Béchamel Les lasagnes étaient superposées avec de la sauce béchamel pour une texture riche et onctueuse. (The lasagna was layered with béchamel sauce for a rich and smooth texture.)
BistroSmall, casual restaurant serving simple, home-style dishes Bistro Bistro Allons dîner dans ce charmant bistro au coin de la rue. (Let's have dinner at that charming bistro around the corner.)
Bouquet garniBundle of herbs tied together and used for flavoring in cooking Bouquet garni Garnished bouquet Le ragoût mijotait avec un bouquet garni pour infuser les saveurs des herbes. (The stew simmered with a bouquet garni to infuse the flavors of the herbs.)
BrasserieFrench-style restaurant serving beer and hearty food Brasserie Brewery Nous avons savouré un délicieux dîner à la brasserie, en appréciant l'ambiance et les plats traditionnels. (We enjoyed a delicious dinner at the brasserie, savoring the ambiance and traditional dishes.)
Café au laitCoffee with hot milk Café au lait Coffee with milk Je préfère commencer ma journée avec un café au lait, c'est une façon réconfortante de se réveiller. (I prefer starting my day with a café au lait, it's a comforting way to wake up.)
CanapéSmall, bite-sized appetizer or hors d'oeuvre Canapé Sofa Les invités de la fête se sont régalés des délicieux canapés circulant grâce au personnel de service. (The party guests delighted in the delicious canapés passed around by the waitstaff.)
CasseroleOvenproof dish used for cooking and serving food Casserole Saucepan Elle a préparé une savoureuse casserole de poulet pour le dîner. (She prepared a savory chicken casserole for dinner.)
CharcuterieAssortment of cured meats, pâtés, and sausages Charcuterie Pork butcher's shop La planche de charcuterie mettait en vedette une sélection de produits… (The charcuterie board showcased a selection of products...)
ChefHead cook or professional chef Chef Chief Le chef a créé un chef-d'œuvre avec ses compétences culinaires innovantes. (The chef created a masterpiece with his innovative culinary skills.)
Crème brûléeCreamy custard dessert with a caramelized sugar topping Crème brûlée Burnt cream La crème brûlée avait une croûte de sucre parfaitement caramélisée. (The crème brûlée had a perfectly caramelized sugar crust.)
CrêpeThin, pancake-like pastry Crêpe Pancake Ils ont apprécié des crêpes sucrées garnies de Nutella et de fraises au petit-déjeuner. (They enjoyed sweet crêpes filled with Nutella and strawberries for breakfast.)
CroissantCrescent-shaped pastry Croissant Crescent La cuisine française est réputée pour son utilisation d'ingrédients frais. (French cuisine is renowned for its use of fresh ingredients.)
CuisineStyle of cooking or cuisine Cuisine Cooking Avant de commencer leur dîner, ils se sont dit 'bon appétit'. (Before they began their dinner, they wished each other 'bon appétit'.)
ÉclairLong, cream-filled pastry topped with icing Éclair Lightning Elle n'a pas pu résister à l'éclair de la boulangerie. (She couldn't resist the éclair from the bakery.)
EntréeMain course or appetizer in a formal meal Entrée Entry En France, l'entrée désigne généralement l'entrée principale. (In France, the term "entrée" typically refers to the main course.)
Filet mignonTender, boneless cut of beef or pork tenderloin Filet mignon Cute fillet Il a commandé le filet mignon cuit à point. (He ordered the filet mignon cooked medium-rare.)
FlambéFood cooked with alcohol and set on fire briefly Flambé Flamed Le serveur a préparé un dessert flambé à table. (The waiter prepared a flambéed dessert at the table.)
FondantSoft and smooth dessert, often chocolate-based Fondant Melting Le fondant au chocolat dégageait du chocolat chaud et fondant lorsqu'on le coupait. (The chocolate fondant oozed warm, molten chocolate when it was cut into.)
GourmetCulinary expert or food connoisseur Gourmet Fine food Il se considère comme un gourmet et adore essayer de nouveaux plats. (He considers himself a gourmet and loves trying new dishes.)
Hors d'oeuvreSmall appetizer or snack served before a meal Hors d'oeuvre Outside of work L'hôte a fait passer une variété de délicieux hors-d'œuvre pendant l'apéritif. (The host passed around a variety of delicious hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour.)
MacaronSweet, meringue-based cookie with a creamy filling Macaron Macaroon Elle a acheté une boîte de macarons colorés à la pâtisserie. (She bought a box of colorful macarons from the patisserie.)
MousseLight and frothy dessert or hair product Mousse Foam La mousse au chocolat était riche et délicieuse. (The chocolate mousse was rich and delicious.)
PâtisserieBakery specializing in pastries and sweets Pâtisserie Pastry shop La pâtisserie exposait une tentante sélection de croissants, gâteaux et tartes. (The patisserie displayed a tempting selection of croissants, cakes, and tarts.)
QuicheSavory, open-faced pastry filled with eggs, cream, and various ingredients Quiche Cake Nous avons dégusté une délicieuse quiche aux épinards et au fromage pour le brunch. (We savored a delicious spinach and cheese quiche for brunch.)
RatatouilleVegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes Ratatouille Ratatouille Elle a cuisiné une ratatouille savoureuse avec des légumes d'été frais. (She cooked a flavorful ratatouille with fresh summer vegetables.)
SautéCooking technique of quickly frying food in a small amount of fat Sauté Jumped Il a sauté les champignons jusqu'à ce qu'ils soient dorés. (He sautéed the mushrooms until they were golden brown.)
SouffléLight and airy baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites Soufflé Puffed up Le soufflé au fromage a magnifiquement gonflé au four. (The cheese soufflé rose beautifully in the oven.)
TartareRaw or lightly cooked minced meat or fish mixed with seasonings Tartare Tartar Il a commandé le tartare de bœuf avec une portion de frites croustillantes. (He ordered the beef tartare with a side of crispy fries.)
VinaigretteEmulsified dressing made with vinegar, oil, and seasonings Vinaigrette Little vinegar Elle a arrosé la salade d'une vinaigrette acidulée avant de la servir. (She drizzled the salad with a tangy vinaigrette before serving it.)

French Fashion Words in English

French fashion is definitely chic (that’s a French loanword too, as I mentioned above).  Here are a few loanwords that have made their way down the French runway and straight into the English lexicon:

LoanwordEnglish MeaningFrench WordFrench MeaningFrench Example Sentence
Avant-gardistPerson who embraces innovative and experimental fashion Avant-gardiste Avant-gardist Elle est connue comme une avant-gardiste dans l'industrie de la mode. (She is known as an avant-gardist in the fashion industry.)
BeretRound, flat-crowned hat, typically made of wool Béret Beret Il portait un élégant béret pour compléter son look d'inspiration française. (He wore a stylish beret to complete his French-inspired look.)
BijouxJewelry, especially decorative accessories Bijoux Jewelry Elle s'est parée de bijoux exquis pour l'événement sur le tapis rouge. (She adorned herself with exquisite bijoux for the red carpet event.)
BoutiqueSmall specialized shop or store Boutique Shop Elle a trouvé une belle robe dans une boutique locale. (She found a beautiful dress at a local boutique.)
ChapeauHat, typically a formal or fashionable one Chapeau Hat Elle portait un élégant chapeau pour le mariage royal. (She wore an elegant chapeau to the royal wedding.)
ChignonHairstyle in which the hair is twisted or bun at the back of the head Chignon Bun Elle a coiffé ses cheveux en un chignon chic pour l'événement formel. (She styled her hair in a chic chignon for the formal event.)
CoiffureHairstyle or a hairdressing salon Coiffure Hairdressing Elle a rendu visite au coiffeur pour se faire une nouvelle coiffure. (She visited the coiffure to get a new haircut.)
CorsetUndergarment worn to shape and support the waist and bust Corset Corset Le corset vintage mettait en valeur sa silhouette en sablier. (The vintage corset accentuated her hourglass figure.)
CoutureHigh-quality, custom-made clothing and craftsmanship Couture Sewing La robe de couture était minutieusement confectionnée à la main avec des détails complexes. (The couture gown was meticulously handcrafted with intricate details.)
CouturierFashion designer, especially for women's clothing Couturier Dressmaker Le célèbre couturier a présenté sa dernière collection à la semaine de la mode. (The famous couturier showcased his latest collection at the fashion week.)
DécolletageLow neckline or the exposed area of a woman's chest and neckline Décolletage Neckline La robe avait un beau décolletage qui ajoutait un élément d'allure. (The dress had a beautiful décolletage that added an element of allure.)
DécolletéLow neckline or a dress with a low neckline Décolleté Uncovered Elle portait une superbe robe de soirée avec un décolleté audacieux. (She wore a stunning evening gown with a daring décolleté.)
ÉclatBrilliance or radiance, often used to describe a person's style Éclat Shine Son sens de la mode avait un éclat sans effort qui attirait tous les regards. (Her fashion sense had an effortless éclat that turned heads.)
EnsembleCoordinated outfit or a group of garments Ensemble Together Elle a assemblé un ensemble élégant pour le défilé de mode. (She put together a stylish ensemble for the fashion show.)
FoulardLightweight scarf, typically made of silk Foulard Scarf Elle a noué un foulard coloré autour de son cou en tant qu'affirmation de style. (She draped a colorful foulard around her neck as a fashion statement.)
Haute coutureHigh fashion, custom-made clothing Haute couture High sewing Elle aspire à travailler dans le monde de la haute couture. (She aspires to work in the world of haute couture.)
LingerieWomen's underwear or sleepwear Lingerie Undergarments Elle a acheté de la lingerie neuve pour sa lune de miel. (She bought some new lingerie for her honeymoon.)
ModisteMilliner or a person who designs and makes hats Modiste Hatmaker La modiste a créé des chapeaux uniques et artistiques pour le défilé de mode. (The modiste created unique and artistic hats for the fashion show.)
PerfumeFragrance or perfume Parfum Perfume Elle a choisi un parfum floral pour la soirée. (She chose a floral perfume for the evening.)
PerfumeryPerfume shop or a store that specializes in fragrances Parfumerie Perfumery Elle a exploré la parfumerie à la recherche de son parfum signature. (She explored the parfumerie in search of her signature scent.)
Prêt-à-porterReady-to-wear clothing Prêt-à-porter Ready-to-wear Le designer a lancé une ligne prêt-à-porter pour la saison à venir. (The designer launched a ready-to-wear line for the upcoming season.)
RobeDress, especially a formal or elegant one Robe Dress Elle portait une superbe robe rouge pour l'événement de gala. (She wore a stunning red robe to the gala event.)
SilhouetteOutline or shape of a person's body or a garment Silhouette Shadow La robe flattait sa silhouette et mettait en valeur ses courbes. (The dress flattered her silhouette and accentuated her curves.)
SoiréeElegant evening social gathering or party Soirée Evening Ils ont participé à une soirée glamour dans l'hôtel de luxe. (They attended a glamorous soirée at the luxurious hotel.)
StylistFashion stylist or a person who creates fashionable looks Styliste Stylist Le styliste talentueux a sélectionné des tenues tendance pour la séance photo. (The talented stylist curated fashion-forward outfits for the photo shoot.)

French Art and Culture Terms in English

colorful paintbrushes on canvas

From painting to music and beyond, these French words show up in English if you’re in the art scene:

LoanwordEnglish MeaningFrench WordFrench MeaningFrench Example Sentence
A cappellaSinging without instrumental accompaniment A cappella In the chapel La chorale a interprété une belle version a cappella de l'hymne. (The choir performed a beautiful a cappella rendition of the hymn.)
Art nouveauDecorative style characterized by flowing lines and organic motifs Art nouveau New art Le bâtiment présentait une architecture magnifique de style art nouveau. (The building featured stunning Art Nouveau architecture.)
PasticheWork of art that imitates the style of another artist or period Pastiche Imitation La peinture était un pastiche astucieux des chefs-d'œuvre de la Renaissance. (The painting was a clever pastiche of Renaissance masterpieces.)
AtelierArtist's workshop or studio Atelier Workshop La peintre passait des heures dans son atelier, créant des chefs-d'œuvre. (The painter spent hours in her atelier, creating masterpieces.)
BalletClassical dance form Ballet Dance Elle s'entraîne pour devenir une danseuse de ballet professionnelle. (She is training to become a professional ballet dancer.)
Chef d'oeuvreMasterpiece, a work of outstanding skill and artistry Chef-d'œuvre Masterpiece La Joconde est considérée comme un chef-d'œuvre de l'art de la Renaissance. (The Mona Lisa is considered a chef-d'oeuvre of Renaissance art.)
En plein airOutdoors, in the open air En plein air In the open air Les artistes ont installé leurs chevalets en plein air pour peindre le paysage pittoresque. (The artists set up their easels en plein air to paint the scenic landscape.)
Joie de vivreJoy of living, zest for life Joie de vivre Joy of living Les tableaux de l'artiste ont capturé l'essence de la joie de vivre. (The artist's paintings captured the essence of joie de vivre.)
MuseSource of inspiration for an artist or creative individual Muse Muse Elle était sa muse, l'inspirant à créer de beaux poèmes. (She was his muse, inspiring him to create beautiful poetry.)
Pièce de résistanceMain attraction or showpiece Pièce de résistance Masterpiece La pièce de résistance de l'exposition d'art était une sculpture époustouflante. (The pièce de résistance of the art exhibition was a stunning sculpture.)
RendezvousPlanned meeting or appointment Rendez-vous Meeting Ils avaient un rendez-vous romantique au café. (They had a romantic rendezvous at the café.)
TableauVisual representation, especially a scene or group of figures Tableau Picture Le tableau représentait un paysage serein aux couleurs vibrantes. (The tableau depicted a serene landscape with vibrant colors.)
Trompe-l'oeilVisual illusion, often used in painting to create a realistic effect Trompe-l'œil Deceives the eye La fresque présentait une impressionnante technique de trompe-l'œil. (The mural featured an impressive trompe-l'œil technique.)

French Architectural Terms in English

modern building surrounded by trees

Architecture hasn’t escaped French vocabulary influence, either! Here are some loanwords related to buildings, structures and all that’s related to them:

LoanwordEnglish MeaningFrench WordFrench MeaningFrench Example Sentence
ArcadeSeries of arches supported by columns or pillars Arcade Arcade La rue commerçante était bordée de belles arcades, créant une atmosphère charmante. (The shopping street was lined with beautiful arcades, creating a charming atmosphere.)
BalustradeRailing or barrier with decorative posts Balustrade Balustrade L'escalier était orné d'une balustrade élégante. (The staircase was adorned with an elegant balustrade.)
ChâteauFrench castle or mansion Château Castle Ils ont visité un château majestueux dans la vallée de la Loire. (They visited a majestic château in the Loire Valley.)
CorniceDecorative molding or projecting ledge at the top of a building Corniche Cornice La corniche ajoutait une touche d'élégance à l'architecture du bâtiment. (The cornice added a touch of elegance to the building's architecture.)
FriezeDecorative band or horizontal panel on a wall Frise Frieze La frise représentait des scènes de la mythologie grecque. (The frieze depicted scenes from Greek mythology.)
GargoyleSculpted creature or grotesque figure that acts as a water spout on a building Gargouille Gargoyle La cathédrale médiévale présentait des gargouilles complexes le long de son extérieur. (The medieval cathedral featured intricate gargoyles along its exterior.)
MansardRoof with two slopes on each side, often used in French architecture Mansarde Mansard La maison avait un toit en mansarde charmant avec des lucarnes. (The house had a charming mansard roof with dormer windows.)
ParapetLow protective wall or barrier along the edge of a roof or balcony Parapet Parapet Le parapet assurait la sécurité et servait d'élément décoratif sur la terrasse du toit. (The parapet provided safety and served as a decorative element on the rooftop terrace.)
Porte-cochèreCovered entrance or gateway for vehicles Porte cochère Carriage door La grande propriété présentait une belle porte-cochère pour les invités arrivants. (The grand estate featured a beautiful porte-cochère for arriving guests.)
TurretSmall tower or spire that projects from a larger structure Tourelle Turret Le château avait plusieurs tourelles offrant une vue panoramique sur la campagne environnante. (The castle had multiple turrets that provided panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.)
VerandaCovered outdoor area, often with a roof and open sides Véranda Porch Ils ont apprécié un thé l'après-midi sur la véranda donnant sur le jardin. (They enjoyed afternoon tea on the veranda overlooking the garden.)

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Why We Use French Words in English

As French evolved from old Gaulish and Latin into what it is today, it became ever more universal. Even before modern borders were established, the French language was very dominant in the area of modern day England.

And while English evolved and became more of its own language, at the same time it also took on quite a bit of French in its formation.

Many English words at least have a French base, if not being the same word entirely. In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 7,000 French words used in English!

Today with the help of technology, the world is becoming more and more globalized—meaning different languages and cultures are interacting with each other as they never could before. 

This has led to an inevitable exchange of words and phrases between many languages. Considering that French and English are some of the most universal languages, it’s no surprise that they exchange words. There are plenty of words we think of as English that have French origins, too. 


And there you have it, a few French phrases that are officially part of the English language.

Can you think of any more?

And one more thing...

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FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:


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For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:


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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

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