For members


French Word of the Day: SDF

There are about 300,000 SDF in France - which is why it is an important set of initials to know.

French Word of the Day: SDF
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know SDF? 

Because anyone could be unlucky enough to end up in this situation. 

What does it mean? 

SDF, pronounced ess-day-eff, stands for sans domicile fixe – without a fixed address. The shortened version is not just used in official reports, it’s widely used in everyday speech and news reports.

SDF used to describe homeless people, but isn’t limited to those sleeping on the street. 

Anyone without a permanent home, including those staying in emergency housing or hostels for example, is included in the SDF category. 

Someone living on the street is known as a sans-abri – without shelter. 

READ ALSO: SIDA to RIB – the everyday French initials and acronyms to know

Charities say that around 300,000 people fall into the SDF category in France but a lack of official surveys means calculating the number of sans-abris is harder. 

One count conducted in January 2022 estimated that there were at least 2,600 sans-abris living in Paris alone. One organisation claims the nationwide figure might be as high as 200,000. 

Use it like this 

83% des personnes SDF disent ressentir le rejet des passants – 83 percent of homeless people say they feel the rejection of passers-by

Les personnes sans-abri ne représentent qu’une partie des SDF – People without shelter only represent a part of those without a fixed address

Le nombre de SDF a doublé – The number of homeless people has doubled 

Il est SDF – He is homeless 


La population itinérant – The homeless population 

Some people use the offensive terms mendiant or clochard to mean beggar. But one study found that up to a quarter of homeless people in France have some kind of employment. 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: La clim’

You'll definitely want to know about this during the summer.

French Expression of the Day: La clim'

Why do I need to know la clim’?

Because the lack of green spaces in cities might find you looking desperately for fresh air.

What does it mean?

La clim’, pronounced la-cleem, means air conditioning, it is a shortened version of la climatisation.

Climatisation comes from the word climatiseur, which itself comes from Klima in Greek and means the inclination of planet Earth from the equator to the poles. This inclination of the planet on its axis is responsible for the seasons and if you find yourself in a French city in August your inclination will definitely be towards climatisation.

Air-conditioning in private homes is not common France, some hotels have it but not all and in the summer months restaurants will often advertise air-con if they have it, as a way of luring in hot-and-bothered tourists.

If you find yourself desperate for cool air, head to a supermarket – almost all French supermarkets are air-conditioned in the summer. Or for a more fun option just head to the nearest city fountain or water feature and join the locals who are splashing around to cool off.

Use it like this

Il fait très chaud, avez-vous la clim’ dans votre hotel ? – It’s really hot, do you have air-con in the hotel?

Je n’aime pas mettre la clim’ en route car cela est mauvais pour la santé et l’environnement – I don’t like turning on the AC, it’s bad for my health and for the environment

Il fait froid, peut-on s’il vous plait éteindre la clim’ ? – It’s cold, could  we turn off the air-con?

La clim’ fait beaucoup de bruit, pouvons-nous la mettre en sourdine ? – This AC is really noisy, could we turn it down?


Un climatiseur – the formal name for an air-conditioner (in French the air conditioning is feminine by the air conditioner is masculine)

Un ventilateur – a ventilator

Un Brumisateur – a ‘fogger’ – these machines which pump out cool water vapour are often seen on the streets and in parks during the summer

Un Rafraichisseur d’air – an air freshener