You may have noticed that many of our English words have roots in the Greek language. But, did you know several others come from our friends in France?
Many everyday words we use in conversation and writing have been borrowed from the French language. Some have obvious French roots, especially words relating to food, but others are more subtle. For instance, did you know picnic is a French word?
Let's see how many more French words and phrases have made their way into our everyday vernacular.
- Á la Carte - According to the menu
When's the last time your loved one brought you to a fancy restaurant where you dined á la carte? Literally meaning "by the card," this is simply an opportunity to order from a selection of separate menu items, instead of having a set meal.
- Apropos - Opportune, pertinent, with regard to
Have you ever had an apropos encounter with fate? That is, has fate arranged an encounter at just the right time? When the stars align in our favor, it's considered to be very apropos.
- Apéritif - A pre-dinner drink
Perhaps, when you were embarking on your á la carte adventure, your server offered you an apéritif, an alcoholic beverage enjoyed before a meal, intended to stimulate the appetite. Surely, this would make your evening even more special, though maybe not when you consider a literal translation is "laxative."
- Bon voyage - Have a good journey
We've all bid someone bon voyage. It's a fun way of saying goodbye. If nothing else, we probably wished it for Leonardo DiCaprio as he boarded the Titanic during a less than apropos time.
- Bouquet - Bunch of flowers
A bouquet typically means a pretty, artful arrangement of fresh flowers rather than a handful of daisies hastily grabbed from your garden. The French have style after all.
- Boutique - Small store or company
A boutique is the antithesis of a huge department store, like Galeries Lafayette in Paris. It's usually a high-end store carrying unique finds. Now, it also applies to small companies offering limited or specialist products, like hotels or breweries.
- Café - Coffeehouse
We all love an afternoon spent in a cute café, perhaps enjoying a croissant with your coffee (or should that be café au lait?), whether we're on French time or American time.
- Cliché - An overused expression or idea, stereotype
A cliché is to be avoided, no matter where you live. It alludes to an opinion, phrase or concept that's been used so often it's lost originality or impact.
- Coup d'etat - Seizure of power, successful act or move
Often shortened to coup (pronounced coo) in English when referring to a successful move. The French certainly know a thing or two about pulling off a blow against the state. Napoleon Bonaparte seized power from the French government after the Revolution and proclaimed himself Emperor.
- Debacle - Complete failure, fiasco
The French may employ a different pronunciation of débâcle (day-bah-kluh), but the meaning remains the same. In either land, if you're facing a debacle, it's sure to be some sort of impending disaster.
- Déjà vu - A feeling you've experienced something before
The literal translation is "already seen," but it doesn't really capture that strangely familiar feeling. If you've ever walked past a complete stranger and felt like you've seen them before, you may be experiencing déjà vu.
- Faux pas - A social blunder
Literally meaning a false step, a faux pas (pronounced fo-pa) is to be avoided at all costs or you'll find yourself in an embarrassing situation, usually surrounded by others.
- Gaffe - Clumsy remark or error
It seems we wanted to take a couple embarrassing terms from the French. A gaffe is similar to a faux pas. It's an unintentional act or remark that'll cause you great discomfort.
- Hors d'oeuvre - Appetizer
Literally translated as "outside the works," who doesn't love a selection of mini snacks before they tuck into their duck confit dinner? With its tricky spelling, you just know hors d'oeuvre (pronounced or-derv) is an entirely French term.
- Joie de vivre - Joy of life
Have you ever known someone who lost their joy of life? Joie de vivre (pronounced zhwa-duh-veev) makes this bout of the blues sound so much more manageable, doesn't it?
- Menu - A list of dishes
Given the French penchant for fine dining and wine, it's no surprise we borrowed so many food-related words. Everywhere from the local Applebee's to the finest establishment in town is going to offer you a menu, or detailed list of food and beverages served.
- Omelet - A dish of beaten eggs
Ah, the simple but tasty omelet, or omelette, as it's spelled in French. Like the delectable quiche, thanks to the French we can all enjoy these egg-based delights from time to time.
- Picnic - An outdoor meal
Although the French spell it pique-nique, the pronunciation and meaning are the same. The word picnic instantly conjures up an image of a relaxing, chilled event, whether it be along the banks of the River Seine or in your local park.
- Souvenir - A memento or keepsake
Given all those vowels, this one has a French flair to it, no? Originally meaning a memory or to come to mind in French, these trinkets are treasured tokens that remind us of special moments in our lives.
- Voyeur - A prying observer
If you've got a voyeur in your midst, it's best to close the curtains or put some distance between you. They get pleasure from secretly watching people.
A Taste of France
With it's romantic language, wonderful architecture and delicious food, France is an easy corner of the world to love. But, isn't it nice to know we embrace a little bit of it's beauty in our everyday language? Instead of lamenting about last week's bout of the blues, you can simply say you temporarily you lost your joie de vivre. And, the next time you're planning a picnic in the park, be sure to bring along a couple French hors d'oeuvres as a nod to our language partner.