French slang: The everyday words they don’t teach you at school

French slang: The everyday words they don't teach you at  school
Photo: Francisco Osorio/ Flickr
It might be International Francophonie Day but forget all those French words they taught you in school like toilette, voiture and vin, because once you get to France you'll find you'll need a whole different set of vocabulary if you want to get by.

If you're looking to improve your French, memorize this list. 


Where better place to start than “making love”. In school (or at least growing up) you'll no doubt be told “faire l'amour” is the term to use for having sex in French. But in reality if you listen to French people, at least the younger ones talking about love making (and they often do) you'll likely hear the slang and fairly vulgar terms “baiser” or “niquer”. There are also plenty of nicer expressions to use. SEE ALSO: French expressions for having sex you won't find a dictionary

Obviously like in other languages the world of sex in French comes with its own slang lingo. So while you might learn the body parts “penis” and “vagin” in your French text books, you are more likely to hear “bite, zizi or queue” for penis and “chatte”, “foufoune” or “zezette” for vagina. But bear in mind these are pretty vulgar and should be used with caution if at all. You can find an incredibly exhaustive language of French sex vocabulary HERE.



The French love (and hate) their cars as much as Anglos do and have bestowed upon their four-wheeled conveyances a tonne of nicknames like “la bagnole, la caisse, la tire.” In formal settings “voiture” is the correct word to use of course.

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Obviously in school we learn the word “toilette”. It couldn't be easier. But in reality once in France you are as much likely to hear people use the slang word “chiottes” to refer to the loo, bog, john…
(Gregory Tonon)
This word has scores of slang terms in every language and French is no exception. When you talk about cash you may hear “le fric, le pognon, le blé, la thune, l’oseille”. But remember the proper word here is “argent.”
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No surprise that a country known for its great wine would have tonnes of words for it. The funny thing is many of the slang terms like “le pinard, le picrate, le pive,” refer to cheap vino. Yes, bad wine is even possible in France. The proper word for wine of course is ‘vin’.
Photo: Neil Conway/ Flickr
France saw its lowest birth rate last year in over a decade, but its number of slang words for children is doing just fine. In the street you’re likely to hear “la gosse, un/e gamin/e, le môme” for little ones. “Enfant” is the proper word. And for kids you're likely to hear “les gosses” in more informal settings.
Photo: Pascal Pavani/ AFP
The criminal underworld is awash with jargon, presumably in order to cloak its nefarious activities. Here are just a few of the French slang or informal terms for crooks: “le voyou, le truand, la racaille, le malfrat (from malfaiteur)”, although some may not be considered as slang. The proper term is “criminel”.
Photo: Victor Casale/ Flickr
Cops seem to employ just about as much slang and jargon as their criminal counterparts. Civilians have taken up the practice of not always flatteringly referring to police as “les flics, les keufs, les poulets, les schmitts” in France. Just remember “policier” is always polite.
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When it comes to work the French are often keen to call it anything but the normal word for it. They will frequently use “le boulot, le taf, le job, la bosse” to talk about their occupation. The formal word is “travail”.
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Many, many French expressions use food to paint a picture, which is perhaps some manifestation of the country’s obsession with what’s on the table. However, when referring to food in general you are most likely to hear “la bouffe” or its cousin the verb “bouffer”. When you want to impress, better use the word “nourriture” for food or “repas” for meal or “manger” (to eat).
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As affairs of the heart can be complicated, it’s perhaps fitting that there is a slew of words to describe one’s male romantic partner in France. There is “le mec, le copain, le loulou”. If in doubt the term “petit ami” is always safe.

Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP
French ladies are known in the Anglo world for their trim figure, effortless style and top notch parenting skills. But in France their boyfriends often refer to them with the not always respectful words such as “la nana, la copine, la gonzesse, la meuf, la loulotte”. If you want to be polite “petite amie” is a sure bet.
Photo: Francisco Osorio/ Flickr
The first Frech words you'll be taught are Bonjour and Au revoir. Don't us wrong they are useful, in fact “bonjour” is probably the most important word in French.
But in informal situations in France you are much more likely to hear “salut” which can also be used to ssay goodbye or even “Coucou”. For goodbye you'll often hear peple just sat “A Plus” or even “bisous”, which means kisses.
This is by far the most important word in French
A drink (of the alcoholic kind)
The French are avid drinkers, behind only Russians and Brits for the title of world’s biggest consumer of alcohol. When a French friend invites you out for a drink it will be a “le verre, le pot, le coup”. These phrases are generally OK in polite company.
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The working Frenchman’s refrain of “Metro, Boulot, Dodo” (Metro, work, sleep) takes its third part from this slang term for shut-eye. However, “dodo” is primarily baby talk, so it’s not quite as street tough as some of the slang you’ve seen here. 'Pioncer' is more grown up, and refers more to having a nap. The world “sommeil” is just fine when talking to adults.
Photo: Agoode/ Flickr
With kids being behind most slang words it's not surprising that there is a slang word for school, which is “bahut”. And it's the same for university, which you will probably hear students refer to as “le fac”. “Ecole” and “université” are the formal words to use. It's worth noting that “bahut” is also slang for taxi and truck as well. It's pronounced [bah u].
Photo: Rune Mathison/ Flickr
If you hear a French person talking about their clothes, which you will do a lot in Paris, your likely to hear the word “fringues”, which is the slang version of “vêtements”. And there's also a slang verb for “to get dressed” – “se fringuer” – that you can use instead of “s'habiller”.
Photo: Harika Reddy/ Flickr
And finally it will come as no surprise to anyone that the French, famous for their smoking habits, have a few different words for cigarettes. Whereas we would say “fags”, “ciggies” or “smokes” they will say “clope” or “sèche”. Best stick to “cigarette” if you are in formal surroundings.
Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP
Family members
Members of family: There are plenty of slang names for family members in France: “frangine” for sister (soeur), “frangin” for brother (frere) or frérot, which would be used like Anglo 'bro', and extends to casually greeting friends, too.
Then there is the slightly derogatory “les vieux”, which is used to refer to parents, to the distinctly derogatory “belle-doche” which is an alternative to “belle-mere” for mother-in-law. Warning: only use if you're certain she's not around! Oh and you might hear the family dog referred to as a “clebard” rather than a “chien”.
Photo: Hammiam/ Flickr
To express that you like something
And lastly, if someone tells you that they “kiffe” your new hair cut, take it as a compliment. “Kiffer” means “to like” in a cool, hip way. However, don't bother telling an elderly person that you “kiffe” anything of theirs. The likelihood of them knowing what you mean is slim.
Another way you might hear French people describing things they like, is by calling it “chanmé(/e)”. Like a lot of French slang, it came from another word being inverted, in this case “méchant” and means “wicked”. So you will understand why older people may not view this as a positive word, either. 
Photo: Nestor Galina/ Flickr
An original version of this story appeared on The Local in April, 2014.
Photo: RedBat/ Flickr

An original version of this story appeared on The Local in April, 2014.

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