French Word of the Day: Pélo

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French Word of the Day: Pélo
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If you are looking to integrate into the youth culture of Lyon or Grenoble, then this is the word for you.


Why do I need to know pélo?

Because if someone is trying to get your attention on the streets of Lyon you might have this shouted at you.

What does it mean?

Pélo – pronounced pay-low - is originally not French at all. This word likely comes from the Romani language, but has been appropriated into French to be a synonym for the colloquial ‘mec’ (bloke or dude).

The term is most common in Eastern France, particularly in Lyon and Grenoble, but it has begun to stretch westward. You’re likely to hear it in pop or rap music, in informal, young settings, or in the commonly used phrase “y a pas un pélo” which means (there is no one - il n’y a personne).


Regarding its etymology, the original word in Romani is pelo (without the accent), which is a reference to male reproductive organs. It might seem a bit shocking that a synonym for phallus might be used to refer to a person in French, but this is not the first time. The word ‘biloute’ (another word for garçon, or young boy) also finds its origins in referencing the male member. 

It is also not the first time a word with Romani origins found its way into the French lexicon - the word ‘narvalo’ can be used to describe someone who is ‘crazy’ or ‘an imbecile.’

Alternatively, pelo (again, without the accent) in French is also an abbreviation for “local personnel,” an expression taken from military vocabulary used during the colonial era. 

However, it is less likely that the slang word pélo comes from this word.

Use it like this

Nous sommes à la fête mais il y a pas un pélo. Nous n'allons probablement rester que quelques minutes. – We are at the party but no one is here. We are probably only going to stay for a few minutes.

Comment ça va pélo ? T’as des projets pour plus tard ? – How are you dude? Do you have plans for later?


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