French Word of the Day: Gougnafier

French Word of the Day: Gougnafier
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If you're after slightly old-fashioned insults with a modern political twist, we have just the thing.

Why do I need to know the word gougnafier? 

Because this antiquated insult has been in the news recently after it was – allegedly – used to describe the British Prime Minister.

What does it mean? 

Gougnafier (pronounced ‘Goo-naf-yay’) loosely translates as ‘knucklehead’.

It is an insult that implies a certain boorish and clumsy incompetence and, like its British translation, is regarded as slightly old-fashioned and quaint.

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See also on The Local:

It’s been in the news this week because Le Canard Enchainé, a weekly newspaper that many see as the French equivalent of the UK’s Private Eye, recently reported that French president Emmanuel Macron privately refers to Boris Johnson as a gougnafier and a clown (un clown – pronounced ‘cloon’ in French). 

It’s not the first time that Macron’s slightly antiquated vocabulary has raised some eyebrows in France, during the 2017 election campaign he introduced us to the phrase Poudre de Perlimpinpin.

Use it like this:

Johnson a une attitude de gougnafier – Johnson has the attitude of a knucklehead

Il est un gougnafier – He is a knucklehead

C’est très triste de voir un grand pays conduit par un gougnafier – It is very sad to see a great country led by a knucklehead 


There are various words that can be used to call someone an impolite, boorish, caddish, useless, silly fool. Here is a small selection: Un goujat, un rustre, un lourdaud, un clown, un malotru, and un paltoquet.

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  1. So is this where the English word ‘goon’ comes from? Seems to have the same meaning, roughly. The thought of the UK Cabinet as The Goon Show rather appeals to me……

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