List of French words and phrases used by English speakers  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

There are many words of French origin in English, such as art, collage, competition, force, machine, police, publicity, role, routine, table, and many others which have been and are being Anglicised. They are now pronounced according to English rules of orthography, rather than French (which uses nasal vowels not found in English). Approximately 40% of English vocabulary is of French or Oïl language origin, most derived from, or transmitted by, the Anglo-Norman spoken by the upper classes in England for several hundred years after the Norman Conquest, before the language settled into what became Modern English.

This article, however, covers words and phrases that generally entered the lexicon later, as through literature, the arts, diplomacy, and other cultural exchanges not involving conquests. As such, they have not lost their character as Gallicisms, or words that seem unmistakably foreign and "French" to an English-speaking person.

The phrases are given as used in English, and may seem correct modern French to English speakers, but may not be recognised as such by French speakers as many of them are now defunct or have a different meaning due to semantic evolution. A general rule is that if the word or phrase retains French diacritics or is usually printed in italics, it has retained its French identity.

Few of these phrases are common knowledge to all English speakers, and most are rarely if ever used in daily conversation.

Examples

Here are some examples of French words and phrases used by English speakers.

There are many words of French origin in English, such as art, collage, competition, force, machine, police, publicity, role, routine, table, and many others which have been and are being anglicized. They are now pronounced according to English rules of orthography, rather than French. Approximately 40% of English vocabulary is of French or Oïl language origin, most derived from, or transmitted by, the Anglo-Norman spoken by the upper classes in England for several hundred years after the Norman Conquest, before the language settled into what became Modern English.

This article, however, covers words and phrases that generally entered the lexicon later, as through literature, the arts, diplomacy, and other cultural exchanges not involving conquests. As such, they have not lost their character as Gallicisms, or words that seem unmistakably foreign and "French" to an English-speaking person.

That said, the phrases are given as used in English, and may seem correct modern French to English speakers, but may not be recognised as such by French speakers as many of them are now defunct or have a different meaning due to semantic evolution. A general rule is that if the word or phrase retains French diacritics or looks better in italics, it has retained its French identity.

Contents

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Only found in EnglishFrench phrases in international air-sea rescueSee alsoReferences

Words and phrase

A

à gogo 
in abundance
à la [...] 
in the manner of [...]
à la carte 
on the card; (in restaurants refers to ordering individual dishes rather than a fixed-price meal)
à la mode 
fashionable; also, with ice cream (in the U.S.)
accouchement 
confinement during childbirth; the process of having a baby; only this last meaning remains in French
adieu 
farewell; as it literally means "to God," it carries more weight than "au revoir" (it is definitive, you won't see the other person alive). Depending of the context, misuse of this term can be considered as an insult, as you'll wish for the other person's death or will say that you don't wish to see the other person ever again while alive
adroit 
skillful, clever, in French: habile, as a "right handed" person would be using his "right" hand, as opposed to his left one with which he would be "gauche" meaning "left".
agent provocateur 
a police spy who infiltrates a group to disrupt or discredit it.
aide-de-camp 
a military assistant
aide-mémoire 
a position paper; a diplomatic agenda
amuse bouche 
an appetizer; lit. mouth pleaser, amuse gueule in modern French.
ancien régime 
a sociopolitical or other system that no longer exists, an allusion to pre-revolutionary France (used with capital letter in French with this meaning : Ancien Régime)
aperçu 
a first impression; initial insight
apéritif 
a before-meal drink
appliqué 
an inlaid or attached decorative feature
après moi, le déluge 
the remark attributed to Louis XV of France; used in reference to the impending end of a functioning French monarchy and predicting the French Revolution. (After me, the deluge.)
après-ski 
after skiing socializing after a ski session; in modern French, this word refers to boots used to walk in snow typically (MoonBootsTM)usually worn after a ski session
arête 
a narrow ridge
armoire 
a type of cabinet; wardrobe
artiste 
a skilled performer, a person with artistic pretensions
art nouveau 
a style of decoration and architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (usually bears capitals in French : Art Nouveau)
attaché 
a person attached to an embassy; in French is also the past participle of the verb attacher (=to fasten)
au contraire 
to the contrary
au courant 
up-to-date; abreast of current affairs
au jus 
literally, with juice, referring to a food course served with sauce. Often redundantly formulated, as in 'Open-faced steak sandwich, served with au jus.' In modern French, although 'jus' can refer to juice produced by meat during cooking, se mettre au jus (to put oneself au jus) is also a colloquial expression used to call someone to try something (jump into water at a pool, try a new recipe...)
au naturel 
nude; literally, it is the contraction of à le (same as à la) naturel (in a natural manner)
au pair 
a young foreigner who does domestic chores in exchange for room and board
au revoir
"See you soon!"; lit. Until the next sight. In French contraction of Au plaisir de vous revoir (=to the pleasure of seeing you again).
avant-garde 
applied to cutting-edge or radically innovative movements in art, music and literature; figuratively "on the edge", literally, a military term, meaning "vanguard" (which is the deformation of avant-guarde) or "advance guard", in other words, "first to attack" (plural avant-gardes; antonym of arrière-garde).
avant la lettre 
used to describe something or someone seen as a precursor or forerunner of something (such as an artistic or political movement) before that something was recognized and named, e.g. "a post-modernist avant la lettre", "a feminist avant la lettre"; the expression literally means before the letter, i.e. "before it had a name".

B

beaucoup 
a lot of (slang, such as, "beaucoup bucks")
belle 
a beautiful woman or girl. Common uses of this word are in the phrases the belle of the ball (the most beautiful woman or girl present at a function) and southern belle (a beautiful woman from the southern states of the US)
bête noire 
a scary or unpopular person, idea, or thing, or the archetypical scary monster in a story; literally "black beast".
billet doux 
a love letter, literally "sweet letter" (plural billets doux).
blasé 
nonchalant or uninterested; literally cloyed or chronically hung over (blasée for a woman).
blond/e 
this is not the only foreign word in everyday use in the English language that also differs in gender — 'blond' is masculine, 'blonde' is feminine.
bon appétit! 
enjoy your meal; literally "good appetite". There is no native equivalent English phrase.
bon voyage! 
have a good trip!
brunette 
a brown-haired girl. For brown-haired boy or man, French uses brun and for a woman brune
bureau de change 
a currency exchange (plural bureaux de change).

C

cachet 
a distinctive quality
café 
a snack (U.K.), a coffee shop (U.S); literally coffee or a place where you can drink coffee
café au lait 
coffee with milk; or a light-brown color
cap-à-pied 
from head to foot; modern French uses de pied en cap
carte blanche 
unlimited authority; literally "white card" (i.e. a card where you can write down whatever you like)
carte d'identité 
identity card
cause célèbre 
a controversial issue, such as a legal case, which divides public opinion
c'est la mode.  
"Such is fashion"
c'est la vie
"That's life!"; or "Such is life!"
c'est magnifique! 
"That's great!"; literally it's magnificent
chaise longue 
a long chair for reclining; (also rendered chaise lounge via folk etymology)
chanson 
a song
chanteuse 
a female singer
chapeau 
a hat
chargé d'affaires 
a temporary or low-level diplomat; also used in French in the business world : refers to someone in charge of some business
châteaux en Espagne 
literally "castles in Spain"; something that exists only in the imagination (as, "castles in the air" or "pie in the sky")
chef d'œuvre 
a masterpiece
cherchez la femme
literally "Look for the woman." (expressing the notion that behind a man’s unusual behavior may be his trying to impress a woman or to cover up an affair)
chevalier d'industrie 
one who lives by his wits, specially by swindling, literally "knight of industry";
chez 
the home of
chic 
stylish
chignon 
a hairstyle worn in a roll at the nape of the neck
cinéma vérité 
realism in documentary filmmaking
claque 
a group of admirers; in French = a slap
cliché 
trite through overuse; a stereotype
clique 
a small exclusive group of friends; often used in a pejorative way in French
coquette 
a flirtatious girl; a tease
commandant 
a commanding officer
comme il faut 
as is proper; literally as it should be
comme ci comme ça 
so-so; literally as this, as that
communiqué 
an official communication
concierge 
a hotel desk manager (in French also refers to the caretaker of a building usually living at the front floor ; concierges have a reputation for gossiping)
concordat 
an agreement; a treaty; when used with capital letters in French refers to a treaty between the French State and Judaeo-Christian religions during the French Empire (Napoleon) : priests, ministers and rabbis became civil servants. This treaty was abbolished in 1905 (Church-State separation) but is still in use in Alsace-Lorraine (those territories were under German administration during 1871–1918)
confrère 
a colleague
congé 
a departure; in French when used in the plural form refers to vacations
connoisseur 
an expert in wines, fine arts, or other matters of culture; a person of refined taste; (spelt connaisseur in modern French)
conte 
a short story; in French a conte has usually a fantasy context (such as in fairytales)
contretemps 
an awkward clash; a delay
cordon sanitaire 
a policy of containment directed against a hostile entity or ideology; a chain of buffer states; lit. "quarantine line"
corduroy 
a material used in clothing, derives from French "corde du roi"; lit. "cloth of kings"
cortège 
a funeral procession; in French has a broader meaning and refers to all kinds of procession
corvée 
forced labor for minimal or no pay
cotte d'armes 
coat of arms
coup de foudre 
a sudden unforeseen event (in French, "thunderbolt": love at first sight)
coup de grâce 
the final blow that results in victory (literally "blow of mercy"), historically used in the context of the battlefield, now more often used in other contexts (e.g. the defense's production of a particular piece of evidence in court that destroys the prosecution's case).
coup de main 
a surprise attack (usually means to give assistance in French: donner un coup de main is "to give a hand", even if the English meaning exists as well but is old-fashionned)
coup d'État 
a sudden change in government by force; literally "hit (blow) of state" (note the capital E in French, not used in English)
coup d'œil 
a glance, literally "a blow (or touch) of the eye"
couture 
fashion
couturier 
a fashion designer
crèche 
a nativity display; more commonly (in UK), a place where children are left by their parents for short periods in the supervision of childminders; both meanings still exist in French
crème brûlée 
a dessert consisting primarily of custard and toasted sugar, that is, caramel; literally "burnt cream"
crème de la crème 
best of the best; literally "cream of the cream", used to describe highly skilled people
crème fraîche 
literally "fresh cream", a heavy cream slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as sour cream
crêpe 
a thin sweet or savoury pancake eaten as a light meal or dessert
cri du cœur 
a passionate plea, literally "cry of the heart"
cul-de-sac 
a dead-end (residential) street; literally "bottom (buttocks) of the bag"

D

déclassé 
of inferior social status
décor 
the layout and furnishing of a room
découpage 
decoration with cut paper
dépanneur 
a neighborhood general/convenience store, term used in eastern Canada
déjà vu 
an impression or illusion of having seen or experienced something before. Literally "already seen".
déjà entendu 
already heard
déjà lu 
already read
démarche 
a decisive step
demimonde 
a class of women of ill repute; a fringe group or subculture, from demi mondaine in the XIX century, not used in France
dénouement 
the end result
de nouveau 
again; anew
dérailleur 
a bicycle gear-shift mechanism
de règle 
according to custom;
de rigueur 
required or expected, especially with reference to fashion
dernier cri 
the latest fashion
derrière 
rear; buttocks; literally "behind"
déshabillé 
partially clad
détente 
easing of diplomatic tension
de trop 
excessive
diablerie 
witchcraft, deviltry
divertissement 
an amusing diversion; entertainment
dossier 
a file containing detailed information about a person; it has a much wider meaning in modern French, as any type of file, or even a computer directory
double entendre 
something which can be interpreted in two ways, both of which make sense in the context used. One is often sexual (now defunct in French)
douceur de vivre 
"sweetness of life"
doyenne 
the senior female member of a group;
dressage 
a form of competitive horse training
droit du seigneur 
the purported right of a lord of an estate to deflower a woman on her wedding night in precedence to her new husband; literally the "right of the lord" (also called "droit de cuissage" in modern French)
du jour 
said of something fashionable or hip for a day and quickly forgotten; today's choice on the menu, as soup du jour, literally "of the day"

demander - to ask

E

eau de toilette 
perfume
élan 
a distinctive flair
émigré 
one who has emigrated for political reasons; the political reason is not implied in the French use of the word
éminence grise 
a powerful advisor or decision-maker who operates secretly or otherwise unofficially; literally "gray eminence"
enfant terrible 
a disruptively unconventional person, a "terrible child"
en bloc 
as a group
en masse 
all together
ennui 
boredom
en passant 
in passing
en route 
on the way
en suite 
as a set (do not confuse with "ensuite", meaning "then")
entente 
diplomatic agreement or cooperation
entre nous 
confidentially; literally "between us"
entrée 
literally "entrance"; the first course of a meal (UK English); used to denote the main dish or course of a meal (US English)
entremets 
desserts/sweet dishes. More literally, a side dish that can be served between the courses of a meal
entrepreneur 
a person who undertakes and operates a new enterprise or venture and assumes some accountability for the inherent risks
escargots 
snails (as food)
escritoire 
a writing table (spelt écritoire in French)
esprit de corps 
a feeling of solidarity among members of a group; morale; literally "spirit of the body (of troops)"
étude 
a musical composition designed to provide practice in a particular technical skill in the performance of an instrument. French for "study".
exposé 
a published exposure of a fraud or scandal; in French refers to a talk or a report on all kinds of subject
extraordinaire 
extraordinary, usually as a following adjective, as "musician extraordinaire"

F

façade 
the front view of an edifice (the ç is pronounced like a s)
fait accompli 
something that has happened and is unlikely to be reversed
faute de mieux 
for want of better
faux 
fake
faux amis 
literally "false friends"; used to refer to words in two different languages that have the same or similar spelling, and often the same etymology but different meanings, such as the French verb rester which means "to stay" rather than "to rest"
faux pas 
a social blunder, or "false step"
femme fatale 
an alluring, mysterious woman; the term implies a fatal ending to meeting and frequenting such a woman
fiancé/e 
a man engaged to be married/a woman engaged to be married; literally betrothed
film noir 
a genre of dark-themed movies
fils 
used after a man's surname to distinguish a son from a father, as George Bush fils (in, French "fils" = son)
fin de siècle 
comparable to (but not exactly the same as) turn-of-the-century but with a connotation of decadence, usually applied to the period from 1890 through 1910.
flambeau 
a lighted torch
flâneur 
a gentleman stroller of city streets
fleur-de-lis 
a stylized-flower heraldic device; the golden fleur-de-lis on an azure background were the arms of the French Kingdom
folie à deux 
a simultaneous occurrence of delusions in two closely related people, often said of an unsuitable romance
force majeure 
an overpowering event, an act of God
forte 
a strength, a strong point, typically of a person, from the French fort or strong.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary,"In forte we have a word derived from French that in its "strong point" sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \'for-"tA\ and \'for-tE\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation \'fort\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would rhyme it with English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English \'fo-"tA\ and \'fot\ predominate; \'for-"tA\ and \for-'tA\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English."

G

gaffe 
blunder
garçon 
literally "boy" or "male servant"; sometimes used by English speakers to summon the attention of a male waiter; (has a playful connotation in English but can be rather insulting in French)
gauche 
tactless, literally "left handed"
gaucherie 
boorishness
genre 
a type or class, such as "the thriller genre"
glissade 
slide down a slope
Grand Prix 
a type of motor racing, literally "Grand Prize"
Grand Guignol 
a horror show, named after a French theater famous for its frightening plays and bloody special effects. (Guignol can be used in French to describe a ridiculous person, in the same way that clown might be used in English.)

H

habitué 
one who regularly frequents a place
haute couture 
trend-setting fashion
haute cuisine 
a manner of preparing food; literally "upper kitchen".
haute école 
advanced horsemanship; literally "upper school"
hauteur 
arrogance; lit. height
haut monde 
fashionable society, the "upper world"
Honi soit qui mal y pense
"Shame on him who thinks ill of it"; or sometimes translated as Evil be to him who evil thinks; the motto of the most noble Order of the Garter (modern French writes honni instead of Old French honi)
hors de combat 
out of the fight
hors-concours 
"out of the running"; used to describe someone who is a non-competitor, especially in love (not restricted to love in modern French)
hors d'œuvre 
appetizer
huis-clos 
the huis clos is a term which indicates an enclosed space such as a room or cell.

I

idée fixe 
a leitmotiv; an obsession
insouciant/e 
a nonchalant man/woman
ingénu/e 
an innocent young man/woman, used particularly in reference to a theatrical stock character

J

J’accuse 
I accuse.; used generally in reference to a political or social indictment (alluding to the title of Émile Zola’s exposé of the Dreyfus affair)
J'adore 
literally, I adore. Implies "Je t'adore", translated as "I love you", or possibly I adore you.
J'adoube 
In chess, an expression said discreetly signaling an intention to straighten out the pieces, without being committed to moving or capturing the first one touched as per the game's rules. lit. "I adjust". From the French verb adouber, to dub (the action of knighting someone)
Je ne sais pas
I don't know
Je-ne-sais-quoi 
an indefinable, usually compelling quality (charisma); lit. I don't know what
joie de vivre 
joy of living

je m'appelle ... my name is ...

K

L

l'affaire [proper name] 
a cause célèbre, such as "l’affaire Enron", an allusion to L’Affaire Dreyfus
laissez-faire 
a policy of minimal interference, usu. in reference to government regulation of commerce
Laissez les bons temps rouler. 
"Let the good times roll." (strongly associated with Cajun and New Orleans culture and not commonly used by Francophones outside of Louisiana)
Lamé 
is a type of fabric woven or knit with metallic yarns.
layette 
a set of clothing and accessories for a new baby
la petite mort 
an orgasm; literally "the little death"
l'esprit de l'escalier 
thinking of the right comeback too late; literally "staircase wit"; (originally a witticism of Diderot, the French encyclopedist, in his Paradoxe sur le Comédien)
L'État, c'est moi. 
the remark attributed to Louis XIV ("I am the state"); also used generally in reference to the overweening ego of an absolute ruler
liaison 
a close relationship or connection; an affair. The French meaning is broader; "liaison" also means bond such as in une liaison chimique = " a chemical bond"
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité 
"Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood"; (motto of the French Republic)
littérateur 
an intellectual; (pejorative in French)
louche 
of questionable taste; shady

M

macramé 
coarse lace work made with knotted cords
maison 
house
maître d' 
short for maître d'hotel, headwaiter. (French never uses "d'" alone, as "d'" only means "of" (litt :master of hotel)).
malaise 
a general sense of depression or unease
mal de mer 
motion sickness, literally "seasickness"
Mardi Gras 
Fat Tuesday, the last day of eating meat before Lent
marque 
a model or brand
matériel 
supplies and equipment, particularly in a military context (French meaning is broader and corresponds more to "hardware")
mélange 
a mixture
mêlée 
a confused fight; a struggling crowd
ménage à trois 
a sexual arrangement between three people; literally "household for three"; (not typically used if all three are of the same sex)
Merci beaucoup! 
"Thank you very much!"
Merde 
"crap" (literally means "shit")
métier 
a field of work or other activity; usually one in which one has special ability or training
milieu 
social environment; setting
mirepoix 
a cooking mixture of two parts onions and one part each of celery and carrots
mise en place 
a food assembly station in a commercial kitchen
mise en scène 
staging of sets, props, actors, etc. in theater and film
moi 
"me"; often used in English as an ironic reply to an accusation; for example, "Pretentious? Moi?"
moi aussi 
"me too", used to show agreeing with someone
montage 
a blending of pictures, scenes, or sounds
motif 
a recurrent thematic element
mousse 
a whipped dessert or a hairstyling foam; in modern French, any kind of foam

N

naïve 
lacking experience, understanding or sophistication
né 
masculine form of née, "born"
née 
used to indicate a woman’s birth name or maiden name, such as, "Martha Washington, née Martha Custis"; "born"
negligee 
(Negligée) A robe or a dressing gown, usually of sheer or soft fabric for women.
N'est-ce pas? 
Isn't it?; asked rhetorically after a statement, as in "Right?"
noblesse oblige 
honorable behavior expected of high rank
nom de guerre 
pseudonym to disguise the identity of a leader of a militant group, literally "war name", used in France for "pseudonym"
nom de plume 
author's pseudonym, literally "pen name". Originally an English phrase, now also used in France
nouveau 
newfangled
nouveau riche 
newly rich
nouvelle cuisine 
new cuisine

O

objet d'art 
a work of art, commonly a painting or sculpture
œuvre 
"work", in the sense of an artist's work; by extension, an artist's entire body of work

P

panache 
verve; flamboyance
papier-mâché 
a craft medium using paper and paste; literally "chewed paper"
par excellence 
quintessential; literally "by excellence"
pas de deux 
a close relationship between two people; a duet in ballet
pas de trois 
a dance for three, usually in ballet.
passé 
out of fashion
pastiche 
a derivative work; an imitation
patois 
a dialect; jargon
peignoir 
a woman’s dressing gown; a negligee (in French, also a bathrobe)
père 
used after a man's surname to distinguish a father from a son, as in "George Bush père."
petite 
small; waiflike; skinny; lit. small
pièce de résistance  
the best; the main meal, literally "the one that resists"
pièce d'occasion 
occasional piece; item written or composed for a special occasion
pied-à-terre 
a second home, usually an apartment in the city
plat de résistance 
the main dish of a meal; literally dish of resistance:
plat du jour 
a dish served in a restaurant on a particular day but which is not part of the regular menu; literally "dish of the day"
plus ça change 
The more things change, the more they stay the same. (from Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, or Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil.)
pot-pourri 
medley, mélange, mixture; literally rotten pot
pour encourager les autres 
to encourage the others, from Voltaire (Candide) [1]
précis 
a concise summary
portmanteau 
a large suitcase, literally "carry coat". Doesn't exist anymore in French, but there is portemanteau (plural portemanteaux), which means a hat stand, a coat rack or a coathanger.
poseur 
a person who pretends to be something he is not; a phony; a poser
prêt-à-porter 
ready-to-wear clothing
prix fixe 
a fixed price meal, sometimes with choices
protégé 
one who receives support from an influential patron
provocateur 
a polemicist

Q

Quel dommage
"What a pity!"
Quelle horreur
What a horrible thing! (often used sarcastically)
Qu'est-ce que c'est
"What is this?"

R

raconteur 
a conversationalist
raison d'être 
justification for existence; "reason for being"
rapport 
to be in someone's "good graces"; to be in synch with someone; "I've developed a rapport with my co-workers"; French for: relationship
rapprochement 
the establishment of cordial relations, often used in diplomacy
recherché 
obscure; pretentious. (usually used in French for sophisticated or delicate)
résumé 
in North American English, a document listing one's qualifications for employment (in French, any kind of summary)
rendezvous 
a meeting, appointment, or date; (usually written rendez-vous in French and sometimes in English)
repartee 
clever banter
repertoire 
the range of skills of a particular person or group
reportage 
reporting; journalism
ressentiment 
a deep-seated sense of aggrievement and powerlessness
restaurateur 
a restaurant owner
risqué 
sexually suggestive; (in French, the meaning of risqué is "risky", with no sexual connotation)
roman à clef 
a fictional account of a true story; literally "novel with a key"
roué 
a hedonist, "cunning devil"
roux 
a cooked mixture of flour and fat used as a base in soups and gravies

S

sabotage 
subversive destruction, from the practice of workers fearful of industrialization destroying machines by tossing their sabots ("wooden shoes") into machinery
saboteur 
one who commits sabotage
Sacrebleu/Sacré bleu
general exclamation of horror and shock; literally "holy blue", blue being the deformation of Dieu (God). Always contracted and unaccented: sacrebleu (no longer current in French)
sang-froid 
great coolness and composure under strain; literally "cold blood"
sans 
without
sans-culottes 
an extremist, literally "without pants", name the insurgent crowd in the streets of Paris gave to itself during the French Revolution. It is a way to shake off the monarchy because they usually wore pantaloons (full-length pants or trousers) instead of the chic knee-length culotte of the nobles.
savant 
a wise or learned person; in English referring to an exceptionally gifted individual
savoir-faire 
social grace; means know-how in French.
savoir-vivre 
etiquette
s'il vous plaît 
please; literally "if it pleases you", "if you please"
si vous préférez 
"if you prefer"
sobriquet 
an assumed name, a nickname
soi-disant 
so-called; self-described; literally "oneself saying"
soigné 
fashionable; polished
soirée 
an evening party
soupçon 
a very small amount (In French, can also mean suspicion)
soupe du jour 
"soup of the day", meaning the particular kind of soup offered that day
succès d’estime 
a "success in the estimation of others", sometimes used pejoratively

T

table d'hôte 
a full-course meal offered at a fixed price
tableau vivant 
in drama, a scene in which actors remain still as if in a picture
tant mieux 
so much the better
tête-à-tête  
a private meeting; literally "head-to-head"
toilette 
the process of dressing or grooming
touché 
acknowledgment of an effective counterpoint; literally "touched" or "hit!"
tour de force 
a masterly or brilliant stroke, creation, effect, or accomplishment; literally "feat of strength"
très 
very (often ironically)
trompe l'œil 
photograph-like realism in painting; literally "trick the eye"

U

V

venue 
invited person for a show, once ("come"); unused in modern French
vignette 
a brief description; a short scene (in French, a small picture)
vinaigrette 
salad dressing of oil and vinegar; diminutive of vinaigre (vinegar)
vis-à-vis 
in comparison with or in relation to; also "opposite number", literally "face-to-face"
Vive
"Long live ...!"; literally "Live"; as in "Vive la France!", Vive la Résistance!, "Vive le Canada!", or "Vive le Québec libre!"
Vive la différence. 
Long live the difference. (generally referring to difference between male and female)
Voilà! or Et voilà! 
"There you go!" or "And there you have it!"
volte-face 
a complete reversal of opinion or position, about face
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?  
"Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)? " (quite rude in modern French as it has no cultural background and is just a rude move)
voyeur 
a peeping tom

W - X - Y - Z

Zut alors! 
"Darn it!", a general exclamation. Like Sacre bleu, this is considered old-fashioned by modern French speakers. Just plain zut is still in use, however — often repeated for effect, for example, zut, zut et zut!) (Whether zut is dated or not might depend on context: where merde is not polite enough, zut, zut alors, zut et rezut etc. are still in current use.) There is an album by Frank Zappa titled Zoot Allures.

Only found in English

Après-garde 
Avant-garde's antonym. French uses arrière-garde (either in a military or artistic context)
auteur 
A film director, specifically one who controls most aspects of a film, or other controller of an artistic situation. The English connotation derives from French film theory. It was popularized in the journal Cahiers du cinéma: auteur theory maintains that directors like Hitchcock exert a level of creative control equivalent to the author of a literary work. In French, the word originally means author, but some expressions like "cinéma d'auteur" are also in use.
cause célèbre 
An issue arousing widespread controversy or heated public debate, lit. famous cause
décolletage 
a low-cut neckline, cleavage (This is actually a case of "false friends": Engl. décolletage = Fr. décolleté; Fr. décolletage means: 1. action of lowering a female garment's neckline; 2. Agric.: cutting leaves from some cultivated roots such as beets, carrots, etc.; 3. Tech. Operation consisting of making screws, bolts, etc. one after another out of a single bar of metal on a parallel lathe.
double entendre 
double meaning, for which Francophones would use « double sens ». The verb entendre, to hear (modern), originally meant to understand. (Note: French usage: "un mot à double sens": a word with more than one meaning; "une phrase à double entente": a sentence with a hidden meaning. "À double entente" is listed in the Petit Larousse 1994 with no mention of its being obsolete or regional.)
encore 
A request to repeat a performance, as in “Encore !”, lit. again; also used to describe additional songs played at the end of a gig. Francophones would say « Bis ! » (a second time !); or « Une autre ! » (Another one !) to request « un rappel » (an encore). To say « Encore ! » implies a request to reprieve the entire repertoire.
faux pas 
An embarrassing social error, lit. false step; sometimes used in French to mean to slip. Francophones would normally use « gaffe » which is less polite.
femme 
a stereotypically effeminate gay man or lesbian (slang, pronounced as written). In French, femme means "woman".
le mot juste 
the right word.
maître d’ 
Francophones would say maître d’hôtel instead (French never uses "d'" alone).
Répondez s'il vous plaît. (RSVP
Please reply.
succès de scandale 
Success through scandal; Francophones might use « succès par médisance ».
voir dire 
jury selection (Law French)

French phrases in international air-sea rescue

International authorities have adopted a number of words and phrases from French for use by speakers of all languages in voice communications during air-sea rescues. Note that the "phonetic" versions are presented as shown and not in IPA.

SECURITAY 
(securité, “safety”) the following is a safety message or warning, the lowest level of danger.
PAN PAN
(panne, “breakdown”) the following is a message concerning a danger to a person or ship, the next level of danger.
MAYDAY
([venez] m'aider, “come help me”; N.B. "Aidez-moi" means "help me") the following is a message of extreme urgency, the highest level of danger. (MAYDAY is used on voice channels for the same uses as SOS on Morse channels.)
SEELONCE 
(silence, “silence”) keep this channel clear for air-sea rescue communications.
SEELONCE FEE NEE 
(silence fini, “silence is over”) this channel is now available again.
PRU DONCE 
(prudence, “prudence”) silence partially lifted, channel may be used again for urgent non-distress communication.
MAY DEE CAL 
(médical, “medical”) medical assistance needed.

It is a serious breach in most countries, and in international zones, to use any of these phrases without justification.

See Mayday (distress signal) for a more detailed explanation.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "List of French words and phrases used by English speakers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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