“Happy Birthday” in French Plus Related Vocabulary

Want to wish someone a happy birthday in French? Simply say Joyeux anniversaire !

But “happy birthday” isn’t the only phrase worth knowing. Read on to learn common expressions to wish everyone from your mom to your boss a joyful celebration. You’ll also learn common birthday vocabulary words, hear a few variations on the birthday song in French and learn some French birthday traditions.


Joyeux Anniversaire: “Happy Birthday” in French

The main way to say “happy birthday” in French is:

Joyeux anniversaire ! — Happy birthday!

Joyeux means “happy” or “joyful,” while anniversaire means “birthday.”

Straightforward and simple. You can’t go wrong with this one in any situation!

But of course, this isn’t the only way to wish someone a happy birthday in French. Read on for more!

More Ways to Say “Happy Birthday” in French

happy birthday balloons

There’s a birthday wish for every situation. Here are some lovely birthday wishes for friends, relatives and everyone in between:

Birthday Vocabulary and Phrases

person lighting birthday candles on a cake

Do you want to invite a French-speaking friend to your birthday party, or propose a toast over a delicious birthday cake? You’ll need to add some birthday vocab to your belt. Discover all the words you need to know to talk about birthday celebrations!

The Happy Birthday Song in French

You can sing the French version of the traditional English birthday song. The lyrics are simple enough to remember, as long as you recall the official way to say “happy birthday” in French:

Joyeux anniversaire, (Happy birthday)
Joyeux anniversaire, (Happy birthday)
Joyeux anniversaire [name], (Happy birthday [name])
Joyeux anniversaire. (Happy birthday.)

You can hear it here:

There are other, more traditional songs you can sing to wish someone a festive happy birthday in French. This traditional song has more to it than just the same words repeated over and over:

You can follow along with the subtitles in the video, or read them and two other French birthday song variations in this blog post:

If you find the subtitles in these videos helpful, you could also give FluentU a go.

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Birthday Traditions in France

beautiful arrangement of flowers on a table

You’re almost ready to celebrate a birthday the French way. But first, take a look at some of these French birthday traditions to make sure you’re doing it right!

  • Birthday breakfast: It’s common for family members to surprise the birthday person with a special breakfast of pastries, croissants, fresh fruit and a coffee or hot cocoa.
  • Birthday flowers: Giving flowers, particularly bouquets or arrangements, is a customary gesture in French birthday celebrations. Popular choices include roses, lilies and mixed seasonal blooms.
  • Les étrennes : In France, it’s customary to give kids and young adults small monetary gifts called étrennes on birthdays, New Year’s Day and other special occasions.
  • Unlucky numbers: Some French people believe that certain numbers are luckier than others. When gifting flowers, make sure to give odd numbers!
  • Carte d’Or : Another unique tradition is the Carte d’Or or “Golden Card.” These are special handmade cards, often decorated with gold accents and personalized messages, to commemorate milestone birthdays like 18th or 21st birthdays.
  • Ear tugging: A lighthearted and playful tradition involves gently tugging the earlobes of the birthday person, usually as many times as their age, to symbolize good luck and longevity.
  • Extended celebrations: Birthdays in France are often celebrated beyond just one day. It’s common for the birthday person to extend the celebration by organizing a meal or get-together with friends or family a few days before or after the actual birthdate.
  • Toasts and speeches: During birthday celebrations, it’s customary for family and close friends to make toasts and speeches to honor the birthday person.


Thanks to all these phrases, songs and traditions, you’re all set to celebrate someone’s birthday—or maybe even your own birthday!—in French. Have fun!

And one more thing...

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

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


FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.


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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.

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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