French word of the day: Clope

French word of the day: Clope
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
You know how some things just feel more ok when you're in France than at home? This cherished French habit - albeit in decline - is one of them.

Why do I need to know clope?

Because every self-respecting person living in France should know how to 'nick a fag/bum a smoke' in French.

What does it mean?

Clope is French slang for ‘cigarette’. Like the English 'smoke a cig', les français fument une clope.

French people love to smoke. Admittedly less now than before – the French too are increasingly worried about the health impacts of smoking – but anyone who has strolled down a street of Paris will have spotted elegant Parisians sipping their coffees while shamelessly puffing on a clope

Like fatty cheese and red wine, cigarettes somehow seem less harmful when in France, a statement of the French joie de vivre rather than what they actually are – a stick full of potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

So if you ever want to spice up your French vocab when asking to bum a cig, you could say 

Je peux te taxer une clope ? – Could I nick a fag?

Former French President Jacques Chirac enjoyed the occasional 'clope'. Photo: AFP

Where does it come from?

No one really knows. In the early 20th century clope meant ‘butt’ (of the cigarette), which slowly developed into a slang word referring to the whole thing.


Fumer une sèche – smoke a dry one

Fumer un mégot – smoke a cigarette butt

Fumer une cigarette – smoke a cgarette

Don’t use it like this..

Clope is something we can qualify as a tu-only word. If you’re addressing someone you would vouvoyer, you'd be safer sticking to: 

Vous n’auriez pas une cigarette, madame/monsieur ? – You wouldn’t have a cigarette by any chance, ma’am/sir?

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