The French vocab you might need during a coronavirus outbreak

Even if your French is good the coronavirus is introducing us all to a few new specialist terms, so here is the language you need to understand what is going on during the outbreak in France.

The French vocab you might need during a coronavirus outbreak
All photos: AFP

Let's start with some of the basics.

Coronavirus and Covid-19 are both the same in French as in English, so there's no problem in establishing what you are talking about.

READ ALSO Coronavirus in France – how worried should you be?

Un virus – virus

L'épidémie – epidemic

Urgences – the hospital emergency department

SAMU – the French ambulance service, or le service d'aide médicale urgente to give them their full name. The number to call for an ambulance in France is 15 and if you think you have symptoms you are asked to call this number and not go to hospital or your local doctor's surgery.

Les symptômes – the symptoms

Un vaccin – a vaccine

Les personnes fragiles – people particularly vulnerable to the illness. These include les personnes âgées (elderly people) and les personnes souffrantes de maladies chroniques (people with pre-existing conditions).

MAP These are the areas of France worst affected by coronavirus

If you're following the news of the outbreak you may need some of these words or phrases

Le bilan – the total or level eg Le bilan en France a passé 190 – the total in France has passed 190

Cas confirmé – confirmed case

Cas suspect/cas investigué – suspected case

Guérison – recovery

Décès – deaths

Une zone risque – an area seriously affected by coronavirus such as China or Italy

Isolement – isolation. Anyone who has recently returned from une zone risque should self isolate for 14 days.

READ ALSO What are the rules on coronavirus quarantine and self isolation in France?

To correctly follow French health advice you might need to know the following phrases

Se laver les mains très régulièrement – Wash your hands very regularly

Tousser ou éternuer dans son coude – Cough or sneeze into your elbow

Saluer sans se serrer la main, éviter les embrassades – Greet people without shaking hands, avoid hugs

Utiliser des mouchoirs à usage unique – Use disposable tissues

Un masque chiurgical – a surgical mask. Only people who are self isolating are advised to wear these, other people do not need to and they will not protect against the virus.

And if you think you may have coronavirus you may need these words to describe your symptoms

Fièvre – fever

Maux de tête – headache

Courbatures – aches

Toux – cough

Difficultés respiratoires – breathing difficulties


Member comments

  1. Especially “Saluer sans se serrer la main, éviter les embrassades”… the local pharmacist refused a handshake this morning, which started an interesting conversation.

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.