Nine favourite French words and expressions of the day

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 23 Feb, 2023 Updated Thu 23 Feb 2023 10:58 CEST
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Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

From new terms linked to the digital revolution and entertainment to handy slang for joking and complaining, here's a roundup of some of our favourite French words and expressions of the day.


Every weekday, we publish a French word or phrase of the day, with the emphasis on slang, colloquialisms and (occasionally) swearing. Our aim is to introduce readers to the words and phrases that they won’t learn in French class, but they definitely will hear during the course of everyday life in France.

We’ve been publishing a daily word since 2018 – check out our back catalogue HERE - and members of The Local can also sign up to our Word of the Day mailing list and get each day’s word or phrase delivered straight to your mailbox.

Here’s a selection of the words and phrases we published recently:

1 Syndrome de la bonne élève

We’ll start with a French phrase that Marie Claire branded “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility”. 


It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft. You’ll be entirely unsurprised to learn that women more commonly suffer with it.

Pronounced: sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv 

Learn why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad here.

2 Système D 

This French expression is reserved for situations where one must be resourceful and inventive – it is defined as ‘the art of getting by’ or ‘making do’ or perhaps ‘cobbling it together’ and it has been used for several decades in France

Pronounced: sis-tehm day 

Read all about it here.

3 Cocasse 

It looks like a rude word. It sounds a bit like two English-language rude words mashed together - but it’s not. It is, in fact, a slang, friends-only way to describe something or someone who is funny, ridiculous, or comical. In more polite society, you might use rigolo or comique.

Pronounced: koe-kahss 

Find out more here.

4 Dématérialisé

A French word that you’ve, no doubt, heard a fair bit recently as the country gets to grips with the 21st century. Sadly, it has nothing to do with Doctor Who, but rather refers to the increasing use of electronic tickets, or receipts, rather than paper ones.

Pronounced: day-mah-tehr-ee-ahl-ee-zay 

Keep up with this French term here.


5 Doper  

French words often have twin meanings. Yes, doper can be used in reference to illegal methods of enhancing athletic performance. But it’s also used, in French, in a more positive sense of stimulating or boosting something. 

Pronounced: doe-pay 

Boost your knowledge of doper here.

6 Chipoter 

A word with an evolving meaning. Chipoter comes from the Old French word “chipe” which means a small piece. It went on to mean "eating slowly without a large appetite".

These days, it means to snack lightly – you could also use the French verb grignoter.

But it has another meaning too: to make a big deal of something small, or to dispute something trivial. 

Pronounced: sheep-oh-tay 

Read our bite-sized explanation here.

7 Bordéliser 

From making a mountain out of a molehill, welcome to the borderline vulgar way of describing making a monumental mess of something.

In popular usage, bordel is used to describe a mess or a chaotic environment, and bordéliser turns whole thing into a verb – meaning to make or create disorder, disaster or chaos. But, yeah, it’s probably not a term to use in front of the prospective future in-laws.

Pronounced: bore-del-ee-zay 

Find out how not to screw up your marriage here.

8 Téléréalité 

In French the télé prefix usually has to do with the internet, rather than television. But while télétravail means work from home and télémédicine means online medical consultations, téléréalité does in fact reference TV - reality TV to be more specific. 

Pronounced: tell-ay-ray-ah-lee-tay 

We explain here.

9 La Fac

As teenage students head brains-deep into bac revision territory, you may start to hear mention of la fac - which is also based on education, and references university. It can used to talk about a particular university, or more generally to talk about the higher education sector.

Pronounced: lah fak 

Educate yourself here.



The Local 2023/02/23 10:58

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