french words in english

114 French Words That You (Probably) Didn’t Know Are Also Used in English

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

In fact, if you believe some sources, over half of the English language derives from le français. That gives French a massive influence over English—but wait, it gets better.

While a majority of English words with French roots have morphed, changing their spellings and pronunciations, there are plenty of everyday words we use in English that have remained purely French.

Here are 114 entirely French words that we use in English.

Contents

Most Common French Words Used in English

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.

À la Mode

overhead-shot-of-a-la-mode-dessert

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

In the U.S., you’ll also see it used to indicate that a dish is served with ice cream. This is probably a holdover from the time when serving pastry and vanilla ice cream was very fashionable in France.

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

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.”)

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.

Bijou

beautiful-woman-with-long-wavy-dark-hair-and-jewelry

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

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

The plural form would be bijoux .

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

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!

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.

Carte Blanche

hand-holding-blank-white-card

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 we English speakers do!

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

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.

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.

Connoisseur

man-holding-wine-glass-thoughtfully

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. Rather, you’re more likely hear  connaisseur or  connaisseuse (the masculine and feminine forms, respectively) instead. 

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

Cordon-bleu

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

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!

Cul-de-sac

overhead-shot-of-cul-de-sac

“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.

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.

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—that is, with a hyphen as in déjà-vu. There is no difference in pronunciation though, which is why context is always key!

As-tu déjà vu ce film ? J’ai eu un sentiment déjà-vu.
Have you “already seen” this film? I had [a feeling of] déjà vu.

Eau de Toilette

woman-spritzing-perfume-on-wrist

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.

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 much more commonly used, as it literally means “again” or “another. “Yet,” “still” or “even” are more intricate translations.  Pas encore or “not yet,” is common, 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 French YouTube channels, or watching authentic French videos on FluentU.

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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.

Exposé

woman-with-glasses-looking-shocked-at-tablet

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.

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.

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.

Femme Fatale

attractive-woman-wearing-shades-and-red-lipstick-while-inside-car

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!

Fiancé / Fiancée

Yes, this is another famous French word that slips by many of us. If the fiancé is a woman, you add an extra “e.”

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

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.

Hors-d’œuvre

closeup-shot-of-rows-of-desserts

“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.

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.

Laissez-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 laissez-faire ses employés.
He prefers to be hands-off with his employees.

Matinée

shot-of-red-seats-in-movie-theater

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.

You may also see this word used in the phrase “matinée idol,” referring to good-looking male actors who have a devoted (often female) fanbase.

Une matinée de ballet.
An afternoon performance of ballet.

Mirage

To “look at” or “wonder at” is the literal translation of this French word. It also means to “mirror ” or “admire,” which is 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.

Potpourri

Potpourri literally means “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 potpourri pour la salle de bain.
I bought this potpourri for the bathroom.

Risqué

legs-with-stockings-raised-upward

In English, risqué refers to something that’s improper, indecent or 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.

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.

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 that means Répondez s’il vous plaît. .

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

Souvenir

If you’re returning from an amazing trip, you’ll no doubt bring back an equally 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?

Touché

two-fencers-crossing-blades

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!

French Word / LoanwordFrench MeaningEnglish MeaningFrench Example Sentence
Amuse-bouche Mouth amuserBite-sized appetizer or palate cleanser Le chef a préparé un amuse-bouche exquis pour ouvrir le repas.
(The chef prepared an exquisite amuse-bouche to start the meal.)
Au gratin With gratingsDish with a golden-brown crust on top Les pommes de terre étaient au gratin, avec une délicieuse croûte au fromage.
(The potatoes were au gratin, with a delicious cheesy crust.)
Béchamel BéchamelCreamy white sauce made with butter, flour and milk 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.)
Bistro BistroSmall, casual restaurant serving simple, home-style dishes Allons dîner dans ce charmant bistro au coin de la rue.
(Let's have dinner at that charming bistro around the corner.)
Bouquet garni Garnished bouquetBundle of herbs tied together and used for flavoring in cooking 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.)
Brasserie BreweryFrench-style restaurant serving beer and hearty food 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 lait Coffee with milkCoffee with hot 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.)
Canapé SofaSmall, bite-sized appetizer or hors d'oeuvre 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.)
Casserole SaucepanOvenproof dish used for cooking and serving food Elle a préparé une savoureuse casserole de poulet pour le dîner.
(She prepared a savory chicken casserole for dinner.)
Charcuterie Pork butcher's shopAssortment of cured meats, pâtés and sausages La planche de charcuterie mettait en vedette une sélection de produits…
(The charcuterie board showcased a selection of products...)
Chef ChiefHead cook or professional chef Le chef a créé un chef-d'œuvre avec ses compétences culinaires innovantes.
(The chef created a masterpiece with his innovative culinary skills.)
Crème brûlée Burnt creamCreamy custard dessert with a caramelized sugar topping La crème brûlée avait une croûte de sucre parfaitement caramélisée.
(The crème brûlée had a perfectly caramelized sugar crust.)
Crêpe PancakeThin, pancake-like pastry 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.)
Croissant CrescentCrescent-shaped pastry La cuisine française est réputée pour son utilisation d'ingrédients frais.
(French cuisine is renowned for its use of fresh ingredients.)
Cuisine CookingStyle of cooking or cuisine Avant de commencer leur dîner, ils se sont dit 'bon appétit'.
(Before they began their dinner, they wished each other 'bon appétit'.)
Éclair LightningLong, cream-filled pastry topped with icing Elle n'a pas pu résister à l'éclair de la boulangerie.
(She couldn't resist the éclair from the bakery.)
Entrée EntryMain course or appetizer in a formal meal En France, l'entrée désigne généralement l'entrée principale.
(In France, the term "entrée" typically refers to the main course.)
Filet mignon Cute filletTender, boneless cut of beef or pork tenderloin Il a commandé le filet mignon cuit à point.
(He ordered the filet mignon cooked medium-rare.)
Flambé FlamedFood cooked with alcohol and set on fire briefly Le serveur a préparé un dessert flambé à table.
(The waiter prepared a flambéed dessert at the table.)
Fondant MeltingSoft and smooth dessert, often chocolate-based 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.)
Gourmet Fine foodCulinary expert or food connoisseur Il se considère comme un gourmet et adore essayer de nouveaux plats.
(He considers himself a gourmet and loves trying new dishes.)
Hors d'oeuvre Outside of workSmall appetizer or snack served before a meal 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.)
Macaron MacaroonSweet, meringue-based cookie with a creamy filling Elle a acheté une boîte de macarons colorés à la pâtisserie.
(She bought a box of colorful macarons from the patisserie.)
Mousse FoamLight and frothy dessert or hair product La mousse au chocolat était riche et délicieuse.
(The chocolate mousse was rich and delicious.)
Pâtisserie Pastry shopBakery specializing in pastries and sweets La pâtisserie exposait une tentante sélection de croissants, gâteaux et tartes.
(The patisserie displayed a tempting selection of croissants, cakes, and tarts.)
Quiche CakeSavory, open-faced pastry filled with eggs, cream and various ingredients Nous avons dégusté une délicieuse quiche aux épinards et au fromage pour le brunch.
(We savored a delicious spinach and cheese quiche for brunch.)
Ratatouille RatatouilleVegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes Elle a cuisiné une ratatouille savoureuse avec des légumes d'été frais.
(She cooked a flavorful ratatouille with fresh summer vegetables.)
Sauté JumpedCooking technique of quickly frying food in a small amount of fat Il a sauté les champignons jusqu'à ce qu'ils soient dorés.
(He sautéed the mushrooms until they were golden brown.)
Soufflé Puffed upLight and airy baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites Le soufflé au fromage a magnifiquement gonflé au four.
(The cheese soufflé rose beautifully in the oven.)
Tartare TartarRaw or lightly cooked minced meat or fish mixed with seasonings Il a commandé le tartare de bœuf avec une portion de frites croustillantes.
(He ordered the beef tartare with a side of crispy fries.)
Vinaigrette Little vinegarEmulsified dressing made with vinegar, oil and seasonings 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

woman-walking-down-runway

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

French Word / LoanwordFrench MeaningEnglish MeaningFrench Example Sentence
Avant-gardiste Avant-gardistPerson who embraces innovative and experimental fashion Elle est connue comme une avant-gardiste dans l'industrie de la mode.
(She is known as an avant-gardist in the fashion industry.)
Béret BeretRound, flat-crowned hat, typically made of wool Il portait un élégant béret pour compléter son look d'inspiration française.
(He wore a stylish beret to complete his French-inspired look.)
Boutique ShopSmall specialized shop or store Elle a trouvé une belle robe dans une boutique locale.
(She found a beautiful dress at a local boutique.)
Chapeau HatHat, typically a formal or fashionable one Elle portait un élégant chapeau pour le mariage royal.
(She wore an elegant chapeau to the royal wedding.)
Chignon BunHairstyle in which the hair is twisted or bun at the back of the head 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.)
Coiffure HairdressingHairstyle or a hairdressing salon Elle a rendu visite au coiffeur pour se faire une nouvelle coiffure.
(She visited the coiffure to get a new haircut.)
Corset CorsetUndergarment worn to shape and support the waist and bust Le corset vintage mettait en valeur sa silhouette en sablier.
(The vintage corset accentuated her hourglass figure.)
Couture SewingHigh-quality, custom-made clothing and craftsmanship La robe de couture était minutieusement confectionnée à la main avec des détails complexes.
(The couture gown was meticulously handcrafted with intricate details.)
Couturier DressmakerFashion designer, especially for women's clothing 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.)
Décolletage NecklineLow neckline or the exposed area of a woman's chest and 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.)
Décolleté UncoveredLow neckline or a dress with a low neckline Elle portait une superbe robe de soirée avec un décolleté audacieux.
(She wore a stunning evening gown with a daring décolleté.)
Éclat ShineBrilliance or radiance, often used to describe a person's style 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.)
Ensemble TogetherCoordinated outfit or a group of garments Elle a assemblé un ensemble élégant pour le défilé de mode.
(She put together a stylish ensemble for the fashion show.)
Foulard ScarfLightweight scarf, typically made of silk 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 couture High sewingHigh fashion, custom-made clothing Elle aspire à travailler dans le monde de la haute couture.
(She aspires to work in the world of haute couture.)
Lingerie UndergarmentsWomen's underwear or sleepwear Elle a acheté de la lingerie neuve pour sa lune de miel.
(She bought some new lingerie for her honeymoon.)
Modiste HatmakerMilliner or a person who designs and makes hats 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.)
Parfum PerfumeFragrance or perfume Elle a choisi un parfum floral pour la soirée.
(She chose a floral perfume for the evening.)
Parfumerie PerfumeryPerfume shop or a store that specializes in fragrances Elle a exploré la parfumerie à la recherche de son parfum signature.
(She explored the parfumerie in search of her signature scent.)
Prêt-à-porter Ready-to-wearReady-to-wear clothing 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.)
Robe DressDress, especially a formal or elegant one Elle portait une superbe robe rouge pour l'événement de gala.
(She wore a stunning red robe to the gala event.)
Silhouette ShadowOutline or shape of a person's body or a garment La robe flattait sa silhouette et mettait en valeur ses courbes.
(The dress flattered her silhouette and accentuated her curves.)
Soirée EveningElegant evening social gathering or party Ils ont participé à une soirée glamour dans l'hôtel de luxe.
(They attended a glamorous soirée at the luxurious hotel.)
Styliste StylistFashion stylist or a person who creates fashionable looks 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 regularly show up in English if you’re in the art scene:

French Word / LoanwordFrench MeaningEnglish MeaningFrench Example Sentence
A cappella In the chapelSinging without instrumental accompaniment La chorale a interprété une belle version a cappella de l'hymne.
(The choir performed a beautiful a cappella rendition of the hymn.)
Art Nouveau New ArtDecorative style characterized by flowing lines and organic motifs Le bâtiment présentait une architecture magnifique de style art nouveau.
(The building featured stunning Art Nouveau architecture.)
Pastiche ImitationWork of art that imitates the style of another artist or period La peinture était un pastiche astucieux des chefs-d'œuvre de la Renaissance.
(The painting was a clever pastiche of Renaissance masterpieces.)
Atelier WorkshopArtist's workshop or studio La peintre passait des heures dans son atelier, créant des chefs-d'œuvre.
(The painter spent hours in her atelier, creating masterpieces.)
Ballet DanceClassical dance form Elle s'entraîne pour devenir une danseuse de ballet professionnelle.
(She is training to become a professional ballet dancer.)
Chef-d'œuvre MasterpieceMasterpiece, a work of outstanding skill and artistry 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 air In the open airOutdoors, 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 vivre Joy of livingJoy of living, zest for life 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.)
Muse MuseSource of inspiration for an artist or creative individual Elle était sa muse, l'inspirant à créer de beaux poèmes.
(She was his muse, inspiring him to create beautiful poetry.)
Pièce de résistance MasterpieceMain attraction or showpiece 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.)
Rendez-vous MeetingPlanned meeting or appointment Ils avaient un rendez-vous romantique au café.
(They had a romantic rendezvous at the café.)
Tableau PictureVisual representation, especially a scene or group of figures Le tableau représentait un paysage serein aux couleurs vibrantes.
(The tableau depicted a serene landscape with vibrant colors.)
Trompe-l'œil Deceives the eyeVisual illusion, often used in painting to create a realistic effect 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:

French Word / LoanwordFrench MeaningEnglish MeaningFrench Example Sentence
Arcade ArcadeSeries of arches supported by columns or pillars La rue commerçante était bordée de belles arcades, créant une atmosphère charmante.
(The shopping street was lined with beautiful arcades, creating a charming atmosphere.)
Balustrade BalustradeRailing or barrier with decorative posts L'escalier était orné d'une balustrade élégante.
(The staircase was adorned with an elegant balustrade.)
Château CastleFrench castle or mansion Ils ont visité un château majestueux dans la vallée de la Loire.
(They visited a majestic château in the Loire Valley.)
Corniche CorniceDecorative molding or projecting ledge at the top of a building La corniche ajoutait une touche d'élégance à l'architecture du bâtiment.
(The cornice added a touch of elegance to the building's architecture.)
Frise FriezeDecorative band or horizontal panel on a wall La frise représentait des scènes de la mythologie grecque.
(The frieze depicted scenes from Greek mythology.)
Gargouille GargoyleSculpted creature or grotesque figure that acts as a water spout on a building La cathédrale médiévale présentait des gargouilles complexes le long de son extérieur.
(The medieval cathedral featured intricate gargoyles along its exterior.)
Mansarde MansardRoof with two slopes on each side, often used in French architecture La maison avait un toit en mansarde charmant avec des lucarnes.
(The house had a charming mansard roof with dormer windows.)
Parapet ParapetLow protective wall or barrier along the edge of a roof or balcony 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 cochère Carriage doorCovered entrance or gateway for vehicles La grande propriété présentait une belle porte cochère pour les invités arrivants.
(The grand estate featured a beautiful porte cochère for arriving guests.)
Tourelle TurretSmall tower or spire that projects from a larger structure 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.)
Véranda PorchCovered outdoor area, often with a roof and open sides 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.)

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 modern-day England.

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

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!

Because 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...

If you like learning French vocabulary on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

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

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.

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

learn-french-with-videos

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.

You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.

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

learn-french-with-movie-trailers

Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."

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As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.

It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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