The new French words you need to know (including some English ones)

As ever, the 2019 editions of France's dictionaries include new entries that reflect the events of the year gone by. Here are the ones you need to know...and some of them will be very familiar.

The new French words you need to know (including some English ones)
Photo: AFP
The new editions of France's major dictionaries are set to hit bookstands tomorrow — here's a look at some of the new words you'll find. 
English words
First, let's start with the ones you'll be familiar with. 
This year's influx of English words into the French dictionary include fashionista — perhaps no surprise given France's world-renowned fashion industry. 
Queer, meaning a person whose sexual or gender identity does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender has also been added to the dictionary. And while some English speakers may find this shocking due to the fact that the word has been used in a derogatory way, the gay rights movement has reclaimed the word as part of the LGBTQ movement in which the 'Q' stands for queer or questioning. 
The prevalence of the English language when it comes to technology has also been felt with the entry of words such as chatbot (“conversational agent”), replay for when you just can't get enough of that Youtube video, hoverboard and darknet — a relatively new word in English meaning the hidden online network often used for illicit ends.  

20 new words the French language needs

Photo: Lagotic/Flickr

E-sport — meaning a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators — was also among the more recent English words to make the list. 
Meanwhile, one of the more unusual English additions was cosplay which is a hobby which sees people dress up as fictional characters. 
More surprisingly, running, drive and SUV have also entered into French dictionaries. 
Globish meaning a simplified version of English used by non-native speakers, consisting of the most common words and phrases only has also taken its place in the French dictionary.  
Many of the words which have been added to the latest editions of France's dictionaries are related to politics and will be familiar to anyone who watched the 2017 presidential debates. 
These include dégagisme, meaning a rejection of the political class currently in place — it was used by Jean-Luc Mélenchon during the election campaign when he was the candidate for the far-left party La France Insoumise. 
Similarly antisystème, meaning against the system in place, has been added to the dictionary. 
The protests and strikes France has seen has influenced some of the latest additions to the French dictionary. Photo: AFP
Revenu universel (“universal income” or “basic income”) to mean a new kind of welfare program in which all citizens of a country receive a regular, livable and unconditional sum of money, from the government — used by socialist party candidate Benoit Hamon — has also been added. 
The cabinet noir (“hidden intelligence service”), denounced by François Fillon, has also found its place in the dictionary. 
The definitions of two words which have been in the dictionary for a long time — marcheur and insoumis — have gained new political significance in this year's editions due to the mass protests and strikes France has seen in the past year and can now be used to mean demonstrator and politically disobedient, respectively. 
Some of the new entries reflect France's continued battle to fight terrorism. 
These include fiché S, which is a list of individuals who are suspected by French police of being a danger to the state including Islamist terrorists, political extremists and football hooligans, revenant (“a jihadist who returns to his country of origin”) and cyberdéfense (“the technology used to defend a country”).
Women's rights
During 2017, the subject of women's rights was a hot topic in part due to the wave of allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and this has been reflected in some of the newly added words. 
For example, the phrase violences faites aux femmes has been included for the first time, as has frotteur — the French word for those who get sexual gratification from rubbing up against people (usually women) in public places. Although the dictionary's definition of a frotteur has caused uproar and forced a re-think from writers at Robert.
Women in Paris tell their stories of being groped, pestered and sexually harassed
Photo: Jean Francois Gornet/Flickr
The Weinstein affair also opened up a wider public debate around feminism in 2017 including the question over whether to introduce écriture inclusive (“inclusive writing”) — which basically puts the masculine and feminine forms of nouns in the text — and this phrase has made it into the dictionary.
The French language is in 'mortal danger', say its own panicked guardians
Lifestyle trends and changing attitudes in society have also contributed to the kinds of words that have been added to the dictionary. 
These include grossophobia meaning the stigmatisation of those who are overweight or obese and VTC — minicabs which can only be rented through reservation unlike normal taxis.
Boboisation from the commonly used word bobo (a contraction of the words bourgeois and bohemian meaning hipsters) can be used to mean areas being being taken over by hipsters or gentrified.
And English wasn't the only language to influence this year's new entries: Japanese words including teriyaki — meaning a dish of grilled meat or fish marinated in a soy sauce and sake.

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Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.