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List of French Words and Phrases Used by English Speakers
Around 45 percent of English vocabulary is of French origin, most coming from 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. Thoroughly English words of French origin, such as art, competition, force, machine, money, police, publicity, role, routine and table, are pronounced according to English rules of phonology, rather than French, and are commonly used by English speakers without any consciousness of their French origin.
This article, on the other hand, covers French words and phrases that have entered the English lexicon without ever losing their character as Gallicisms: they remain unmistakably "French" to an English speaker. They are most common in written English, where they retain French diacritics and are usually printed in italics. In spoken English, at least some attempt is generally made to pronounce them as they would sound in French; an entirely English pronunciation is regarded as a solecism.
Some of them were never "good French", in the sense of being grammatical, idiomatic French usage. Some others were once normal French but have become very old-fashioned, or have acquired different meanings and connotations in the original language, to the extent that they would not be understood (either at all, or in the intended sense) by a native French speaker.
lit. "mouth-amuser"; a single, bite-sized hors d'oeuvre. In France, the exact expression used is amuse-gueule, gueule being slang for mouth (gueule is the mouth of a carnivorous animal; when used to describe the mouth of a human, it is vulgar), although the expression in itself is not vulgar. The expression refers to a small mouthful of food, served at the discretion of the chef before a meal as an hors d'oeuvre or between main courses.
lit. "with juice", referring to a food course served with sauce. Often redundantly formulated, as in 'Open-faced steak sandwich, served with au jus.' No longer used in French, except for the colloquial, être au jus (to be informed).
1. a. Nude. b. In a natural state: an au naturel hairstyle. 2. Cooked simply.
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 a corruption of avant-garde) or "advance guard", in other words, "first to attack" (antonym of arrière-garde).
avant la lettre
used to describe something or someone seen as a 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". The French modern form of this expression is avant l'heure.
a long, narrow loaf of bread with a crisp crust, often called "French bread" or "French stick" in the United Kingdom. In French, a baguette is any long and narrow stick-like object, for example a "chopstick". Also, a rectangular diamond, cut to twenty-five facets.
Used interchangeably with the English equivalent of "lots of/many/a great number of". Appropriate when the speaker wants to convey a greater positive connotation and/or greater emphasis. Often used as an informal expression, mostly in small regional dialect-pockets in the Canadian Prairies and the American South, especially in Alberta and Louisiana respectively.
lit. "beautiful gesture", a gracious gesture, noble in form but often futile or meaningless in substance. This French expression has been pressing at the door of standard English with only partial success, since the appearance of P. C. Wren's Beau Geste (1924), the first of his Foreign Legion novels.
lit. "well thinking"; right thinking, orthodox. Formerly implied willful blindness to dangers or suffering faced by others but, nowadays corresponds to "politically correct". The noun form bien-pensance is rarely seen in English.
member of the bourgeoisie, originally shopkeepers living in towns in the Middle Ages. Now the term is derogatory, and it applies to a person whose beliefs, attitudes, and practices are conventionally middle-class.
small ornamental objects, less valuable than antiques; a collection of old furniture, china, plates and curiosities. Cf. de bric et de broc, corresponding to English "by hook or by crook", and brack, refuse.
to improvise or assemble something useful from what happens to be at hand; to expedite or economize a project with readily available components, versus a kit or outside sources; to reuse spare parts for other than their original purpose; to create something new by arranging old material; to create a new, valuable purpose for an object that has completed its original purpose and otherwise be discarded. Connotes an intrepid do-it-yourself spirit or clever repurposing. Differs from tinkering which merely modifies an existing arrangement. The term is used metaphorically to describe inventive philosophy, theories, and practices in business and academic fields, where new concepts are found in interactions of old ideas.
a diplomat left in charge of day-to-day business at a diplomatic mission. Within the United States Department of State, a "chargé" is any officer left in charge of the mission in the absence of the titular chief of mission.
"look for / seek the woman", in the sense that, when a man behaves out of character or in an otherwise apparently inexplicable manner, the reason may be found in his trying to cover up an illicit affair with a woman, or to impress or gain favour with a woman. This expression was first used in a novel by Alexandre Dumas (père), in the third chapter of Les Mohicans de Paris (1854), in the form of cherchons la femme ("let's look for the woman"). The expression is found in John Latey's 1878 English translation: "Ah! Monsieur Jackal, you were right when you said, 'Seek the woman.'" The phrase was adopted into everyday English use and crossed the Atlantic by 1909.
commanding officer of a base, depot or training area. In France, used for an airline pilot (le commandant de bord), in the Army as appellative for a chef de bataillon or a chef d'escadron (roughly equivalent to a major) or in the Navy for any officer from capitaine de corvette to capitaine de vaisseau (equivalent to the Army's majors, lieutenant-colonels and colonels) or for any officer heading a ship.
an agreement; a treaty; when used with a capital C in French, it refers to the treaty between the French State and Judaeo-Christian religions during the French Empire (Napoleon): priests, ministers and rabbis became civil servants. This treaty was abolished in 1905 (law Church-State separation) but is still in use in Alsace-Lorraine (those territories were under German administration during 1871-1918).
the final blow that results in victory (lit. "blow of mercy"), historically used in the context of the battlefield to refer to the killing of badly wounded enemy soldiers, now more often used in a figurative context (e.g., business).
a nativity display; more commonly (in the United Kingdom), a place where children are left by their parents for short periods in the supervision of childminders; both meanings still exist in French.
originally "bottom of sack" and used in English in anatomy since 1738. Used for dead end (street) since 1800 in English, since 14th century in French. The often heard erroneous folk etymology "arse [buttocks] of the sack" is based on the current meaning of cul in French, but cul-de-sac is used to refer to dead ends in modern French and is not vulgar, though the terms impasse and voie sans issue are more common in modern French.
lit. "sports director". A person responsible for the operation of a cycling team during a road bicycle race. In French, it means any kind of sports director.
an amusing diversion; entertainment.
a file containing detailed information about a person. In modern French it can be any type of file, including a computer directory. In slang, J'ai des dossiers sur toi ("I have files about you") means having materials for blackmail.
lit. "right of the lord": the purported right of a lord in feudal times to take the virginity of one of his vassals' brides on her wedding night (in precedence to her new husband). The French term for this hypothetical custom is droit de cuissage (from cuisse: thigh).
lit. "of the day": said of something fashionable or hip for a day and quickly forgotten; today's choice on the menu, as soup du jour.
lit. "grooming water". It usually refers to an aromatic product that is less expensive than a perfume because it has less of the aromatic compounds and is more for an everyday use. Cannot be shortened to eau, which means something else altogether in French (water).
(in ballet) on tiptoe. Though used in French in this same context, it is not an expression as such. A pointe is the ballet figure where one stands on tiptoes. The expression "en pointe", though, means "in an acute angle", and, figuratively, it qualifies the most progressive or modern things (ideas, industry ).
lit. "wit of the stairs"; a concise, clever statement you think of too late, that is, on the stairs leaving the scene. The expression was created by French philosopher Denis Diderot. Very rarely used in French.
lit. "accomplished fact"; something that has already happened and is thus unlikely to be reversed; a done deal. In French used only in the expression placer/mettre quelqu'un devant le fait accompli meaning to present somebody with a fait accompli. Also see point of no return.
lit. "deadly woman": an attractive woman who seduces and takes advantage of men for her personal goals, after which she discards or abandons them. It extends to describe an attractive woman with whom a relationship is likely to result, or has already resulted, in pain and sorrow.
lit. "little leaf of paper": a periodical, or part of a periodical, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles.
betrothed; lit. a man/woman engaged to be married.
lit. "flower of salt", hand-harvested sea salt collected by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. Is one of the more expensive salts; traditional French fleur de sel is collected off the coast of Brittany most notably in the town of Guérande (Fleur de Sel de Guérande being the most revered), but also in Noirmoutier, Île de Ré and Camargue.
a simultaneous occurrence of delusions in two closely related people, often said of an unsuitable romance. In clinical psychology, the term is used to describe people who share schizophrenic delusions. The derived forms folie à trois, folie à quatre, folie en famille or even folie à plusieurs do not exist in French where "collective hysterics" is used.
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.)
"Shamed be he who thinks ill of it"; or sometimes translated as "Evil be to him who evil thinks"; the motto of the English Order of the Garter (modern French writes honni instead of Old French honi and would phrase "qui en pense du mal" instead of "qui mal y pense").
an innocent young man/woman, used particularly in reference to a theatrical stock character who is entirely virginal and wholesome. L'Ingénu is a famous novella written by Voltaire.
"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, a political scandal that divided France from the 1890s to the early 1900s (decade) and involved the false conviction for treason in 1894 of Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Jewish background).
In chess, an expression, said discreetly, that signals the intention to straighten the pieces without committing to move or capturing the first one touched as per the game's rules; lit. "I adjust", from adouber, to dub (the action of knighting someone).
lit. "gilded youth"; name given to a body of young dandies, also called the Muscadins, who, after the fall of Robespierre, fought against the Jacobins. Today used for youthful offspring, particularly if bullying and vandalistic, of the affluent.
lit. "call of the void"; used to refer to intellectual suicidal thoughts, or the urge to engage in self-destructive (suicidal) behaviors during everyday life. Examples include thinking about swerving in to the opposite lane while driving, or feeling the urge to jump off a cliff edge while standing on it. These thoughts are not accompanied by emotional distress.
separation of the State and the different Churches (at first, it concerned especially Catholicism). In France, where the concept originated, it means an absence of religious interference in government affairs and government interference in religious affairs. But the concept is often assimilated and changed by other countries. For example, in Belgium, it usually means the secular-humanist movement and school of thought.
lit. "let do"; often used within the context of economic policy or political philosophy, meaning leaving alone, or non-interference. The phrase is the shortcut of Laissez faire, laissez passer, a doctrine first supported by the Physiocrats in the 18th century. The motto was invented by Vincent de Gournay, and it became popular among supporters of free-trade and economic liberalism. It is also used to describe a parental style in developmental psychology, where the parent(s) does not apply rules or guiding. As per the parental style, it is now one of the major management styles. Used more generally in modern English to describe a particularly casual or "hands-off" attitude or approach to something,
Cajun expression for "let the good times roll": not used in proper French, and not generally understood by Francophones outside Louisiana, who would say profitez des bons moments (enjoy the good moments).
a woman brothel-keeper (Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd edition, p. 475). In French, a title of respect for an older or married woman (literally "my lady"); sometimes spelled "madam" in English (but never in French).
lit. "my noble young lady": young unmarried lady, miss.
Alt., MDR. Abbreviation in SMS, akin to LOL; for mort de rire (mort, adj. or verb, past tense), or mourir de rire (mourir, verb, infinitive). Lit., as adjective or past tense, dead or diedof laughing, so "died laughing" or "dying of laughter"; compare mort de faim for starve.
"nobility obliges"; those granted a higher station in life have a duty to extend (possibly token) favours/courtesies to those in lower stations. Used in French with the definite article ("La noblesse oblige").
lit. "new wave." Used for stating a new way or a new trend of something. Originally marked a new style of French filmmaking in the late 1950s and early 1960s, reacting against films seen as too literary.
lit. "bread with chocolate." Despite the name, it is not made of bread but puff pastry with chocolate inside. The term chocolatine is used in some Francophone areas (especially the South-West) and sometimes in English.
urban street sport involving climbing and leaping, using buildings, walls, curbs to ricochet off much as if one were on a skateboard, often in follow-the-leader style. Originally a phonetic form of the French word parcours, which means "a run, a route" Also known as, or the predecessor to, "free running", developed by Sébastien Foucan.
1) (in linguistics) speech, more specifically the individual, personal phenomenon of language; see langue and parole. 2) (in criminal justice) conditional early release from prison; see parole.
a location where troops assemble prior to a battle. While this figurative meaning also exists in French, the first and literal meaning of point d'appui is a fixed point from which a person or thing executes a movement (such as a footing in climbing or a pivot).
the left (southern) bank (of the River Seine in Paris). A particular mindset attributed to inhabitants of that area, which includes the Sorbonne
lit. "do-nothing king": an expression first used about the kings of France from 670 to 752 (Thierry III to Childeric III), who were puppets of their ministers. The term was later used about other royalty who had been made powerless, also in other countries, but lost its meaning when parliamentarism made all royals powerless.
lit. "without knee-breeches", a name the insurgent crowd in the streets of Paris gave to itself during the French Revolution, because they usually wore pantaloons (full-length pants or trousers) instead of the chic knee-length culotte of the nobles. In modern use: holding strong republican views.
lit. "twisting around a point", used to describe a particular type of heart rhythm.
lit. "touched" or "hit!": acknowledgment of an effective counterpoint or verbal riposte; comes from terminology in the sport of fencing. Not understandable in modern French, as "touché" means "emotionally touched".
lit. "feat of strength": a masterly or brilliant stroke, creation, effect, or accomplishment.
lit. "all short": typically used in philosophy to mean "nothing else", in contrast to a more detailed or extravagant alternative. For instance, "Kant does not believe that morality derives from practical reason as applied to moral ends, but from practical reason tout court".
tout de suite
right now, immediately. Often mangled as "toot sweet".
during a medical emergency or disaster, the process of determining the priority of medical treatment or transportation based on the severity of the patient's condition. In recent years, in British English usage, the term has also been used in the sense of to screen or address something at the point of contact, before it requires escalation.
an invited man/woman for a show, or "one who has come"; the term is unused in modern French, though it can still be heard in a few expressions like bienvenu/e (literally "well come": welcome) or le premier venu (anyone; literally, "the first who came"). Almost exclusively used in modern English as a noun meaning the location where a meeting or event is taking place.
lit. "face to face [with]": in comparison with or in relation to; opposed to. From vis, an obsolete word for "face", replaced by visage in contemporary French. In French, this is also a real estate vocabulary word, meaning that your windows and your neighbours' are within sighting distance (more precisely, that you can see inside of their home).
lit. "[long] live the difference"; originally referring to the difference between the sexes; the phrase may be also used to celebrate the difference between any two groups of people (or simply the general diversity of individuals).
"Darn it!" or the British expression "Blimey!" This is a general exclamation (vulgar equivalent is merde alors ! "Damn it!"). Just plain zut is also in use, often repeated for effect: zut, zut et zut ! There is an album by Frank Zappa, punningly titled Zoot Allures. The phrase is also used on the Saturday Night LiveWeekend Update sketch by recurring character Jean K. Jean, played by Kenan Thompson.
Not used as such in French
Through the evolution of the language, many words and phrases are no longer used in modern French. Also there are expressions that, even though grammatically correct, do not have the same meaning in French as the English words derived from them. Some older word usages still appear in Quebec French.
fashionable; in the US it also describes a dessert with ice cream (as in "apple pie à la mode") or, in some US regions, with cheese. In French, it mainly means "fashionable", "trendy", but is occasionally a culinary term usually meaning something cooked with carrots and onions (as in boeuf à la mode). It can also mean "in the style or manner [of]" (as in tripes à la mode de Caen), and in this acceptation is similar to the shorter expression "à la". The British English meaning and usage is the same as in French.
personal military or fighting armaments worn about one's self; has come to mean the accompanying items available to pursue a mission, or just accessories in general. In French, means a funny or ridiculous clothing; often a weird disguise or a getup, though it can be said also for people with bad taste in clothing.
an inlaid or attached decorative feature. Lit. "applied", though this meaning does not exist as such in French. However "appliqué inversé" exists and has the same meaning than a reverse appliqué. Also an "applique murale" is a decorative light fixture attached on a wall.
A counterattack that attempts to take advantage of an uncertain attack in fencing. Though grammatically correct, this expression is not used in French. The term arrêt exists in fencing, with the meaning of a "simple counteroffensive action"; the general meaning is "a stop". A related French expression: s'arrêter à temps (to stop in time).
nude; in French, literally, in a natural manner or way (au is the contraction of à le, masculine form of à la). It means "in an unaltered way" and can be used either for people or things. For people, it rather refers to a person who does not use make-up or artificial manners (un entretien au naturel = a backstage interview). For things, it means that they have not been altered. Often used in cooking, like thon au naturel: canned tuna without any spices or oil. Also in heraldry, meaning "in natural colours", especially flesh colour, which is not one of the "standard" colours of heraldry.
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 means "author", but some expressions like cinéma d'auteur are also in use.
a scary or unpopular person, idea, or thing, or the archetypal scary monster in a story; literally "black beast." In French, être la bête noire de quelqu'un ("to be somebody's black beast") means that you're particularly hated by this person or this person has a strong aversion against you, regardless of whether you're scary or not. The dictionary of the Académie française admits its use only for people, though other dictionaries admits it for things or ideas too. It also means that one is repeatedly defeated by a person, who is thus considered their archenemy (for instance, "Nadal is the bête noire of Roger Federer").
a clothing store, usually selling designer/one off pieces rather than mass-produced clothes. Can also describe a quirky and/or upmarket hotel. In French, it can describe any shop, clothing or otherwise. The expression hôtel-boutique can be used to refer to upmarket hotels, but the word is recent and not as widespread as the equivalent expression boutique hotel.
In English, a boutonnière is a flower placed in the buttonhole of a suit jacket. In French, a boutonnière is the buttonhole itself. Yet the French expression "Une fleur à la boutonnière" has an equivalent meaning.
An issue arousing widespread controversy or heated public debate, lit. 'famous cause'. It is correct grammatically, but the expression is not used in French.
chacun à son goût
the correct expressions in French are chacun ses goûts / à chacun ses goûts / à chacun son goût: "to each his/her own taste(s)".
a classical "art song", equiv. to the German Lied or the Italian aria; or, in Russian, a cabaret-style sung narrative, usually rendered by a guttural male voice with guitar accompaniment. In French, it can be used to refer to any song, but it also refers to the same music genre as in English (someone practicing this genre being generally called a chansonnier in Quebec, especially if they sing at a restaurant or cabaret).
a manor house or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally--and still most frequently--in French-speaking regions. The word château is also used for castles in French, so where clarification is needed, the term château fort ("strong castle") is used to describe a castle.
in English, a person who cooks professionally for other people. In French the word means "head" or "chief"; a professional cook is a cuisinier (lit. "cook"), chef-cuisinier referring to a head cook. Also, sous-chef, the second-in-command, directly under the head chef. Traditionally, chef used to means the head, for example a "couvre-chef" is a headgear, but by extension it's often used in job titles, military ranks, for a person in charge or who leads a group of people: "chef d'État" (lit. "Head of State" and "Chief of State"), "chef d'entreprise" ("Business executive"), "chef d'orchestre" (Conductor of an Orchestra), "sergeant-chef" (Staff Sergeant), "chef de gare" (stationmaster), "chef de famille" (head of household), etc. More casually in a work context, a chef is a boss.
extraconjugal affair between five and seven pm. In French, though it can also mean this, it primarily means any relaxing time with friends between the end of work and the beginning of the marital obligations. In Quebec French, it is also used as a synonym for "Happy Hour" by bars and restaurants that serve discounted drinks after working hours.
a group of admirers; in French, la claque is a group of people paid to applaud or disturb a piece at the theatre, though the common meaning of "claque" is "a slap"; clique is used in this sense (but in a pejorative way).
A bouquet of flowers worn on a woman's dress or worn around her wrist. In French, it refers to a woman's chest (from shoulder to waist) and, by extension, the part of a woman's garment that covers this area.
a sudden change in government by force; literally "hit (blow) of state." French uses the capital É, because the use of a capital letter alters the meaning of the word (État: a State, as in a country; état: a state of being). It also cannot be shortened as coup- as is often the case in English- because this literally means a "hit" in French, but can be used figuratively to mean many more things.
first public performance of an entertainment personality or group. In French, it means "beginning." The English meaning of the word exists only when in the plural form: [faire] ses débuts [sur scène] (to make one's débuts on the stage). The English meaning and usage also extends to sports to denote a player who is making their first appearance for a team or at an event.
a low-cut neckline, cleavage. In French it 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.
a decisive step. In French, it means a preparing step (often used in the plural form), a specific set of steps to get a specific result (can be used in the singular form, sometimes the expression "marche à suivre" (lit. "step to follow") will be preferred), or a distinctive way of walking.
a neighbourhood general/convenience store, term used in eastern Canada (often shortened to dép or dep). This term is commonly used in Canadian French; however, in France, it means a repairman. In France, a convenience store would be a supérette or épicerie [de quartier].
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 « Une autre ! » ('Another one!') or «Bis !» to request « un rappel » or « un bis ».
in a mass or group, all together. In French, masse refers only to a physical mass, whether for people or objects. It cannot be used for something immaterial, like, for example, the voice: "they all together said 'get out'" would be translated as ils ont dit 'dehors' en choeur ([like a chorus]). Also, en masse refers to numerous people or objects (a crowd or a mountain of things). In colloquial Québécois French, it means "a bunch" (as in il y avait du monde en masse, "there was a bunch of people").
as a set (not to be confused with ensuite, meaning "then"). Can refer, in particular, to hotel rooms with attached private bathroom, especially in Britain where hotels without private facilities are more common than in North America. In French, suite, when in the context of a hotel, already means several rooms following each other. J'ai loué une suite au Ritz would be translated as "I rented a suite at the Ritz." En suite is not grammatically incorrect in French, but it is not an expression in itself and it is not used. Also used in British English to denote a bathroom that is accessible directly from the master bedroom of a house (usually with a connecting door), rather than by a separate entrance.
lit. "entrance"; in French, the first dish that starts a meal, i.e. the entrance to the meal. It can refer to a set of bites or small snacks, or a small dish served before a main course. The main dish or "plat de résistance" comes after the entrée. In American English, the meaning has migrated to "main dish". In other varieties of English it maintains its French meaning.
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. In French, it means "end of the century", but it isn't a recognized expression as such. The French expression "ambiance [de] fin de règne" (lit. "end-of-reign atmosphere") also has a light connotation of boredom and decadence.
a strength, a strong point, typically of a person, from the French fort(e) (strong) and/or Italian forte (strong, esp. "loud" in music) and/or Latin forte (neuter form of fortis, strong). French uses fort(e) for both people and objects.
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 [French doesn't pronounce the final "t"]. 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."
The New Oxford Dictionary of English derives it from fencing. In French, le fort d'une épée is the third of a blade nearer the hilt, the strongest part of the sword used for parrying.
term used for the snacks served with drinks before a meal. Literally "outside of the work". The French use apéritif to refer to the time before a meal and the drinks consumed during that time, yet "hors d'oeuvre" is a synonym of "entrée" in French and means the first dish that starts a meal. In Québécois French, apéritif refers to the drink only, and hors-d'oeuvre (usually plural) refers to a set of bites, while an entrée is a small dish (an entrée can be made as hors-d'oeuvres, but not all of them are).
la sauce est tout
"The sauce is everything!" or "The secret's in the sauce!" Tagline used in a 1950s American television commercial campaign for an American line of canned food products. Grammatically correct but not used in French, where one might say Tout est dans la sauce or C'est la sauce qui fait (passer) le poisson.
A once commonly used British term for a toilet or water closet. Before the age of the internet, it was commonly believed, and widely taught in schools in Britain, that the word Toilet was a rather vulgar, impure, corruption of the French word "Toilettes" and that Lavatory was the correct expression to use because it was much closer in meaning to the French the word it was derived from, "Lavatoire", which was supposed to mean "to wash, or to clean, yourself". Actually, though the word Lavatoire does exist in French, it never meant a toilet or a bathroom. The Lavatoire was the holy stone upon which the bodies of ecclesiastics, priest and members of the clergy, were once washed after their deaths, in order to prepare them for the afterlife, for their journey to heaven.
the sign above a theater that tells you what is playing. From marquise, which means not only a marchioness but also an awning. Theater buildings are generally old and nowadays there is never such a sign above them; there is only the advertisement for the play (l'affiche). In English, means a temporary structure (often made of canvas or similar material) which is erected to host an event outdoors, especially in the UK, where such events can often be affected by weather conditions (pronounced mar-key).
nostalgie de la boue
"yearning for the mud"; attraction to what is unworthy, crude or degrading. Though grammatically correct, it is not used in French.
an ordinary object, such as a piece of driftwood, a shell, or a manufactured article, that is treated as an objet d'art because it is aesthetically pleasing. In French, les objets trouvés, short for le bureau des objets trouvés, means the lost-and-found, the lost property.
out of the ordinary, unusual. In French, it means outraged (for a person) or exaggerated, extravagant, overdone (for a thing, esp. a praise, an actor's style of acting, etc.); in that second meaning, belongs to "literary" style.
a woman's dressing gown. It means bathrobe. In French, both peignoir and robe de chambre are used interchangeably, though the latter is generally considered formal and the former is generally seen as colloquial.
in English a portmanteau is a large piece of luggage for clothes that opens (like a book or a diptych) into two parts. From this literal sense, Lewis Carroll, in his novel Through the Looking Glass playfully coined a further figurative sense for portmanteau meaning a word that fuses two or more words or parts of words to give a combined meaning. In French, lit. a 'coat-carrier', originally a person who carried the royal coat or dress train, now a large suitcase; more often, a clothes hanger. The equivalent of the English/ Lewis-Carroll portemanteau is un mot-valise (lit. a suitcase word). "Brexit" and "emoticon" are modern examples of portmanteau words.
a type of author intrusion in which a writer inserts a character to argue the author's viewpoint; alter ego, sometimes called 'author avatar'. In French, a raisonneur is a character in a play who stands for morality and reason, i.e., not necessarily the author's point of view. The first meaning of this word though is a man (fem. raisonneuse) who overdoes reasonings, who tires by objecting with numerous arguments to every order.
lit. "present yourself" or "proceed to"; a meeting, appointment, or date in French. In English, it generally endorses a mysterious overtone and refers to a one-on-one meeting with someone for another purpose than a date. Always hyphenated in French: rendez-vous. Its only accepted abbreviation in French is RDV.
repetition of previous music in a suite, programme, etc. and also applied to an actor who resumes a role that they have played previously. In French, it may mean an alternate version of a piece of music, or a cover version, or the rebroadcast of a show, piece or movie that was originally broadcast a while ago (although the term rediffusion is generally preferred, especially when talking about something on television). To express the repetition of a previous musical theme, French would exclusively use the Italian term coda.
in North American English, a document listing one's qualifications for employment. In French, it means summary; French speakers would use instead curriculum vitæ, or its abbreviation, C.V. (like most other English speakers).
sexually suggestive; in French, the meaning of risqué is "risky", with no sexual connotation. Francophones use instead osé (lit. "daring") or sometimes dévergondé (very formal language). Osé, unlike dévergondé, cannot be used for people themselves, only for things (such as pictures) or attitudes.
rouge (lit. "red")
1) a rouge is red makeup, also called blusher. Rouge à lèvres is French for "lipstick", even if the lipstick is not red at all. The French equivalent to the English meaning is "fard à joues"; 2) in Canadian football, a rouge is awarded when the ball is kicked into the end zone by any legal means, other than a successful field goal, and the receiving team does not return or kick the ball out of its end zone.
in English, when used it usually refers to type of meal: a full-course meal offered at a fixed price. However, in French, it refers to a type of lodging: the closest English equivalent would be "a bed & breakfast" or "B&B." The origin of the meaning (for French speakers) is that at a table d'hôte (literally "table of the house" or "table of the host"), unlike at a full-service purpose-built hotel, all patrons eat together at the host's table, whatever the family have prepared for themselves (typically traditional regional dishes). Indeed, in France today a lodging labeled "table d'hôte" might perhaps not even offer food; the appellation meaning what an English-speaker would think of as a "bed & breakfast -style" family-home lodging (as opposed to a purpose-built hotel). In Quebec, table d'hôte generally has the same meaning as in English, the expression couette et café (lit. "duvet and coffee") is generally used to talk about B&B style accommodations, where the English expression is not used.
a brief description; a short scene. In French, it is a small picture or a thumbnail. By extension a vignette is the name of a compulsory road tax in the form of a small sticker affixed to a vehicle windscreen, which is now also used in several European countries.
"camp assistant"; in the army, a military assistant to a senior military officer (heads of State are considered military officers because of their status as head of the army). In Canada, it may also refer to the honorary position a person holds as a personal assistant to a high civil servant. It exists in French too but is written aide de camp (without any hyphens).
"to inform"; used to substitute the verb to inform when the information is crucial. Its French meaning is the feminine past participle of to learn [apprendre]. In English, when followed by an object it is used with the preposition of. Example without object: Please, apprise me. Example with object: he apprised of it.
a class of women of ill repute; a fringe group or subculture. Fell out of use in the French language in the 19th century. Frenchmen still use une demi-mondaine to qualify a woman that lives (exclusively or partially) off the commerce of her charms but in a high-life style.
a figure of speech wherein a word or phrases can be taken to have two distinct coherent meanings, most often in a fashion that is suggestive and/or ironic. "Entendre" is an infinitive verb ("to hear"), not a noun; a correct rendering would be "à double entente", an adjectival phrase meaning "of a double understanding or double interpretation" (literally, "with a double hearing"). The modern French phrase is "à double sens".
translates literally as master o'. The French term for head waiter (the manager of the service side of a restaurant) is maître d'hôtel (literally "master of the house" or "master of the establishment"); French never uses "d'" stand-alone. Most often used in American English and its usage in the UK is rare.
A robe or a dressing gown, usually of sheer or soft fabric for women, or a nightdress. As with lingerie, the usage of the word suggests the garment is alluring or fancy. French uses négligé (masculine form) or nuisette. In French, the word négligée qualifies a woman who neglects her appearance.
a trial within a trial, or (in America) jury selection (Law French). Literally "to speak the truth." (Anglo-Normanvoir [truth] is etymologically unrelated to the modern French voir [to see].) In modern American court procedure, the examination of prospective jurors for their qualification to serve, including inherent biases, views and predelictions; during this examination, each prospective juror must "speak the truth" so that counsel and the court may decide whether they should remain on the jury or be excused. In England and Wales, the expression is used to refer to a "trial within a trial", during which a judge hears evidence in the absence of the jury, typically to decide whether a certain piece of evidence should be allowed to be presented to the jury or not. For example, a judge might hold a "voir dire" to determine whether a confession has been extracted from a defendant by an unfair inducement in order to decide whether the jury should hear evidence of the confession or not.
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 of spelling are presented as shown and not the IPA.
([venez] m'aider, come to help me"; 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.)
^"I like my nature programmes à la Attenborough, where Nature is the subject matter and the presenter remains unobtrusive," Christina Odone, "Moving experiences should be private", The Daily Telegraph, September 12, 1996.
^The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, third edition, edited by R. W. Burchfield, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996, p. 98-99.
^"Except for the strong possibility that - like former Bishop Roddy Wright of Argyll and the Isles - I would, in fact, be breaking off to pen a billet-doux to a divorcée of the parish, or a furtive birthday card to my secret teenage son," Mark Lawson, "The boy who would be Pope", The Guardian Weekly, September 21, 1996.
^Eric Partridge: Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 1951
^"Step forward Naomi Campbell, supermodel, sometime novelist and now chanteuse, whose La La La song has sold 1.7 m copies in Japan alone," John Harlow, "Pop world laments dying scream of the teenyboppers chorus", The Sunday Times, August 18, 1996.
^"Working during the summer is de rigueur for the majority of students," Peter and Lynne Boundy, "When parents are on the breadline", The Times, September 10, 1996.
^"a sweet but intoxicating digestif", Satyr, "Into the mouths of babes and sucklings", The Observer, Business, August 18, 1996.
^"But then the dossier will be buried and with it the real truth," Roger Faligot, "Grave issue that won't die down", The European, August 8-14, 1996.
^"The late Elizabeth David, the doyenne of cookery writers, must be turning in her grave," Evening Standard, London's Diary, September 12, 1996.
^"Vanity Fair, that glossy barometer of 'the importance of being fabulous', is planning an extended spread on London as the 'happening' city du jour," Douglas Kennedy, "We're finally speaking their language", The Sunday Times, The Culture, October 27, 1996.
^"I have always seen a great similarity in the turn of our minds. We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb," Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice, 1813.
^"Ruby day is a demi-clad femme fatale in pantomime boy's clothing, channelling Liza Minelli and EF Benson's Quaint Irene - as alluring to women as she is to men. You can just about see how it might épater la bourgeoisie, without feeling for a second any outrage is justified," Rowan Pelling, "How is this painting 'pornographic' and 'disgusting'?", The Guardian, July 8, 2014.
^"May I remind your readers that planning permission has not yet been sought for the [Foster] tower, nor is it a fait accompli," Paul Drury (English Heritage), Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, August 18, 1996
^Evelyn Waugh was very close to not being asked back to La Mauresque after one grave faux pas that Maugham, known for his stammer, did not find amusing. To his host's question about what a certain individual was like, Waugh replied characteristically, 'a pansy with a stammer'. He recalled, "All the Picassos on the wall blanched, but Maugham remained calm", John Whitley, "A little place in the sun", Telegraph Magazine, August 17, 1996.
^"Some femmes fatales play to a man's sexuality, some to his intelligence, but she just played to my damn ego," Ed Rollins, "Arianna", News Review, The Sunday Times, August 11, 1996.
^"Ed Victor, doyen of literary agents and habitué of the Hamptons, a celebrity playground in Long Island, New York State", P.H.S., "The Times Diary", The Times, September 21, 1996.
^"The French right-wing daily [Le Figaro] pleads for tolerance of American hauteur", "Press Watch", The European", August 8-14, 1996.
^"This has provoked speculation that Yeltsin is too ill to be operated on. Perhaps the two German doctors offering their services can help resolve the impasse," Carey Scott, "Inside Moscow", The Sunday Times, September 15, 1996.
^"An investigation was started over allegations that the local jeunesse dorée had been involved in a drugs, drink and sex orgy in the cemetery," Roger Faligot, "Grave issue that won't die down", The European, August 8-14, 1996.
^"Brunswick Street [...] a small-scale version of Manhattan's East Village, [...] where there is always an intense would-be litterateur scribbling madly at a corner table in some smoky dive," Douglas Kennedy, "Light relief in a tale of two cities", The Times Weekend, August 24, 1996.
^"She liked to alternate her smart parties with much more louche affairs at which drugs circulated as frequently as the cocktails," John Whitley, "A little place in the sun", Telegraph Magazine, August 17, 1996.
^"I've always thought Anne Boleyn was a bit of a madame. She thought she could get away with anything," "Interview of Keith Michell", The Observer Review, October 27, 1996.
^"Harry Walston had little option but to let [Graham] Greene form part of their unusual ménage à trois: Catherine had made it plain to Harry that if he wanted to keep her, Greene must remain part of her life," "P.H.S.", "The Times Diary", The Times, September 21, 1996.
^"Bouncing out of the shower to investigate the commotion came a boxer whose nom de guerre says it all: the Grim Reaper," Peter Hillmore, "Pendennis", The Observer Review, October 27, 1996.
^"Fleur Cowles knows everybody who is anybody and mostly has the photographs to prove it. A saunter through her hallway produces more evidence of a networker par excellence," Mary Riddell, "How to make friends", The Times, August 13, 1996.
^"A Mirage of Modernity: pas de deux of Consumption and Production", title of Hong Kong researcher Yan Hairong' contribution to Unquiet Migration (Hsiao-Chuan Hsia ed.), 2009.
^"But just because a word has briefly become part of the nation's playground patois, does that qualify it for a place in the OED?," Jon Stock,"Mish to explain - a rap session wiv yoof", Weekend Telegraph, August 17, 1996.
^"Prices of developments [at Rotherhithe] are rising as professionals working at Canary Wharf and elsewhere in Docklands seek a pied à terre", The Daily Telegraph, August 14, 1996.
^"[Daniel] Harding is a protégé of Sir Simon Rattle, himself once heralded as the great young hope of British Music," "Nigel Reynolds, Britain's latest prodigy takes up toughest baton", The Daily Telegraph, September 12, 1996.
^"Undoubtedly his modus operandi is not unlike the fluent pub raconteur who augments a story until he gets a laugh," Bill Bryson, "A Yank at the court of Little England", The Sunday Times, August 11, 1996.
^"A startling number of American restaurateurs have turned to caviar chic as a sure way of winning customers," Tony Allen Mills, Style, September 15, 1996.
^"This roman à clef sets out to recount the struggle between the media moguls Robert Maxwell [...] and Rupert Murdoch," "Review by Laurence Meyer of Jeffrey Archer's The Fourth Estate", International Herald Tribune, July 31, 1996.
^"The pictures he took of [Julia] Roberts -- sans new boyfriend -- will run in the American tabloid The Star," "Videonasties", The Sunday Times, Style, August 18, 1996.
^"Nigel Lawson used to be known by the sobriquet of 'Smuggins'," Peter Hillmore, "Pendennis", The Observer Review, October 27, 1996.
^"So they come up with a succes d'estime and a series of flops d'estime follow," Christopher Fildes, "Take it easy Mr Bond, help is on the way - Miss Moneypenny will fix it", Business News, The Daily Telegraph, August 17, 1996.
^"The focus of the salon was the magnificent chimney piece, a tour de force in moulded and faceted glass - and housing an up-to-date electric fire," Kenneth Powell, "Mayfair's hidden treasure", The Sunday Review, The Sunday Telegraph, August 18, 1996
^"The film begins briskly, with [...] a tour-de-force action scene in mid-air", Nigel Andrews, "Super hero into super-hulk", Financial Times, August 22, 1996.
^"It [the proposed agreement] also involves the banks swapping at least £2 billion debt into two tranches of convertible securities which would, if converted, give them between 25% and 80% of the fully diluted equity," Jonathan Ford, "Tunnel debt talks hit conversion snag", Evening Standard, Business Day, September 12, 1996.
^"This constant va-et-vient of fortune hunters is what gives Lhasa the impermanent, feverish atmosphere of a typical cowboy town," Ian Buruma, "Tibet Disenchanted", China File, July 20, 2000 (first published in the July 20, 2000 issue of the New York Review of Books).
^"De Gaulle was always proud of displaying 'la différence' vis-à-vis the Americans in the Arab world," Kirsty Lang, "They're not all right, Jacques", The Sunday Times, October 27, 1996.
^"a nation of voyeurs: people who get their gustatory kicks from watching other people cook but don't actually do it themselves", Brenda Maddox, Cooking for kitchen voyeurs, The Times, September 11, 1996.
^This usage is also illustrated by Savez-vous planter les choux [fr], a popular children's song from the Middle Ages: Savez-vous planter les choux [...] À la mode de chez nous translates to "Do you know how to seed cabbage ... Our way".
^"Throughout the year, the acquisition of a new vase or photograph, or the discovery of an object trouvé - a skeleton leaf, a fragment of painted paper, an intriguingly shaped piece of wood - is the excuse for a bout of rearranging," Elspeth Thompson, "Still life with Agnès", The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, August 18, 1996.
^"Teacher Alan Faulkner warned: 'Some of the skirts were getting very risque and [...] the girls would face disciplinary action'," Daily Mail, September 21, 1996.
^voir direThe American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2006)