100+ Commonly Used French Words and Phrases in English

Do you speak French? If you speak English, the answer is "yes" — even if you don't know any French at all! There are many common French words and phrases you use in English every day in conversation and writing. Some have obvious French roots, but others are more subtle.

USA and France flags with Speech Bubbles USA and France flags with Speech Bubbles
Advertisement

Common English Words With French Origins

You may not even realize you’re speaking French on a daily basis when you use these words. How many French parts of speech make their way into your sentences every day, or French restaurant words? Read the original French meanings of several words that are used in English today.

English Nouns Derived from French

When you think of French words used in English, you may skip over common nouns. But many nouns in English actually come from the French language.

NounFrench MeaningEnglish Meaning
armoirebookcase or cupboarda cabinet or wardrobe
au pairon equal termsa nanny or babysitter who works for room and board
beauhandsomea love interest
bouquetbunch of flowersa flower arrangement
bureaudresser or deska government department or office
chauffeurmotorist or engine stoker (from chauffer - "to heat")a person who drives others
clichéto stereotype (past participle of clicher)an overused expression or idea; stereotype
cliquea clicking soundan exclusive group of friends
connoisseursomeone who knowsan expert in a subject, usually food or art
courageheart (the seat of emotions)bravery
cul-de-sacbottom of sackdead end on a street
debacleto break up or to clear (débâcler)a complete failure; fiasco
débutbeginningthe first performance of a group
dinettetea partya small dining room or dining set
entrepreneura person who undertakes a projectsomeone who starts their own business
exposéexposeda story that exposes a scandal
femme fataledeadly womana very seductive woman
fiance/fiancéto betroth (past participle of fiancer)a person engaged to be married
gaffeboathooka clumsy remark or error
genrea type (from the Latin genus)a category, kind or type of written work
impasseimpassable roada situation with no good solution
papier-mâchéchewed papermaterial made of paper pulp mixed with glue
protégéprotectedsomeone influenced by a mentor
queuetail of an animala line to wait in
rendezvouspresent yourselvespre-arranged meeting or meeting place
souvenirto remembera memento or keepsake
voyeurone who inspectsa prying observer

French Adjectives in English

You probably already know that adjectives such as faux or blasé come from French. But did you know that bizarre and stupid also come from French?

AdjectiveFrench MeaningEnglish Meaning
bizarreoddstrange
blankinnocent, white (blanc)colorless or plain
blaséto satiate (past participle of blaser)unimpressed, jaded
bourgeoisresident of a walled towndistinctly middle class or aristocratic
bronzetan (bronzé)alloy of copper and tin; yellowish-gold color
certaindefinite, positivedefinite, positive
contenthappy, pleasedhappy, pleased
cruelunfeelingwicked or hurtful
differentunlike others (différent)unlike others
fauxwrong, falsenot real, or an imitation
genteelwell-born (gentil)polite, respectable
graveserious, solemnserious, solemn
intelligentcleververy smart
longlengthylengthy
orangea citrus fruit/orange colora citrus fruit/orange color
patientto suffer (present participle of patior)waiting calmly
petitesmall, littlesmall and delicate
possiblecapable of being donecapable of being done
simpleplain, uncomplicated, naiveplain, uncomplicated, naive
stupidsilly, mindless (stupide)not smart
Advertisement

English Place Names With French Origins

Many of the places you visit or talk about on a daily basis are named for French words. See how many of these French words used in English you know, or have visited in your town!

WordFrench MeaningEnglish Meaning
abbeybuilding where nuns or monks live (abbaye)building where nuns or monks live
arcadecovered passage with shopsplace to play video games
boutiquesmall shopsmall clothing shop
cafécoffee, coffee housecoffee house, restaurant
cinemamovie theater (from cinématographe, a device for projecting moving photographs)movie theater
dinermidday meal (dîner)small restaurant with a counter
garageshelter (from garer)covered parking for cars
pavilionan outdoor wing of a building or tentlarge tent or part of a building that is open to the outside.
terraceplatform made from earth (terrasse)raised patio or balcony

French Food Words Used in English

No one dines like the French! The next time you order food at a restaurant, check out the menu for these common French eating terms.

WordFrench MeaningEnglish Meaning
à la carteby the cardordering separate items on a menu
à la modein the fashionice cream on top of a dessert
amuse-bouchemouth amusera small dish to open a meal
apéritifopening the appetitea pre-dinner drink
baguettebaton or sticka long loaf of bread
bon appetitgood appetiteenjoy your meal
chefheada professional cook
éclairflash of lighta chocolate, cream-filled pastry
hors d'oeuvreoutside the worksan appetizer before a meal
menudetailed lista list of dishes served
omeletflat egg dish (from amelette)a flat egg dish
picnica social gathering where everyone brings food (from pique-nique)an outdoor meal in nature
sautéjumped (past participle of sauter)pan-fried with oil
Advertisement

French Words Used in English for Fashion

Many high fashion words, such as chic or couture, also have French origins. Try out these French words that describe the fashion world.

WordFrench MeaningEnglish Meaning
avant-gardevery fashionable (originally "advanced guard" to describe the soldier who goes first in battle)a new and innovative style
blousea loose-fitting topa loose-fitting top
bonneta tight-fitting hatan old-fashioned hat for women
braceleta piece of jewelry worn around the wrista piece of jewelry worn around the wrist
chapeauhata fashionable hat
chicartistic skillvery stylish and fashionable
costumecustomary clothes or fashionan outift meant to look like something else
couturedressmakinghigh fashion
eau de toilettetoilet waterscented water, perfume
gauchelefttacky or socially unacceptable
lingeriemade of linenfemale underwear
originalunique, one of a kindunique, one of a kind
pajamassleeping clothes (pyjama)sleeping clothes
panachethe plume on a hatflourish, flair
perfumepleasant-smelling smoke (parfum)scented water, cologne
robea dressloose-fitting outer garment
uniforman official outfitan official outfit

French Phrases Used in English

You might say these phrases with an English pronunciation, but they’re still French! See how many French sayings used in English you use every day.

PhraseFrench MeaningEnglish Meaning
aproposwith regard toopportune, pertinent, with regard to
au contraireon the contraryon the contrary
bon voyagegood journeyhave a good trip
carte blanchewhite cardhaving full authority to do what you want
coup d'etata stroke of stateseizure of power
déjà vualready seena feeling you've experienced something before
du jourof the daysomething trendy or only available today
en gardeon guardbe on your guard
excusez-moiexcuse meexcuse me
faux pasa false stepa social blunder
je ne sais quoiI don't know whata quality that’s hard to describe
joie de vivrejoy of livingjoy of living
laissez-faireallow to doa belief that people can do what they want without interference
nom de plumepen namean alias for a writer to go by
RSVP (répondez s'il vous plaît)respond if you pleaseplease reply to an invitation
touchétouchedgood point
voilàto view (imperative of voir)there it is
Advertisement

The French Influence

With France's romantic language, wonderful architecture and delicious food, it’s no wonder French words appear so often in English. Learn more French words starting with the months and days in French. Continue your virtual journey to France by learning a few fun facts about France. Then, learn to speak like a local with some fun French idioms and many uniquely beautiful French words.