French Word of the Day: Banlieusard

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 28 Feb, 2023 Updated Tue 28 Feb 2023 09:41 CEST
French Word of the Day: Banlieusard
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This French word technically describes a lot of people in France, but it is typically only applied to some.


Why do I need to know banlieusard?

Because you need to know its connotations as well as its dictionary definition.

What does it mean?

In French the word for suburb is une banlieue, so banlieusard roughly pronounced bahn-lee-uh-zarr – means someone who lives in the suburbs.

However, the word is not as neutral as 'suburbanite' in English.

As a result, you should beware when using this term because banlieusard is often used in a pejorative sense, perhaps sharing similarity with the English expression 'from the streets' or even 'ghetto-dweller'.


In France, the cultural connotation is that the suburbs (just outside of the city) are typically poor, less enfranchised parts of the country that often have high crime rates. 

Most often, the word banlieusard is used when referring to the eastern and northern Paris suburbs. In fact, a 2019 film was titled Banlieusard and it followed the lives of three brothers from an impoverished area just outside of Paris. In English, the title of the film was translated to “street flow”. That being said, the term can technically be applied to people from the suburbs in any other French city as well.

The Paris suburbs also tend to be more racially mixed, so although the word banlieusard itself is not racist, it is sometimes used in a racist context.

In recent years, housing trends in France have begun changing, as more wealthy and middle-class French families begin to move outside of the city centre and toward the suburbs. Despite this fact, the term banlieusard is still a loaded term - although you will hear some of the people it is applied to reclaim it and use it as a badge of pride in their origins.  

If you want to describe a person from the suburbs - whichever suburb that may be - you might opt for the longer, but less loaded ‘habitant/e de la banlieue’. 

Use it like this

On m'a appelé banlieusard toute ma vie, surtout quand je venais dans le centre de Paris. – I was called a person from the suburbs all my life, especially when I came into the Paris city centre.

Elle a déclaré que cela ne la dérange pas que les gens l'appellent "banlieusarde", car elle est fière de ses racines. – She said that she is not offended when people call her a ‘banlieusarde' because she is proud of her roots.


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