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French Terms in English

Use this list of French Terms in English for Grade 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 elementary, middle school and high school students and kids to learn and understand a selection of commonly used French words and French Terms in English.


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Note: French has many sounds that are quite unlike English. The pronunciations shown here are only a rough guide.

A Words

agent provocateur (French):
(a-ZHAHN pro-vo-ka-TUHR)
A person who incites another person or an organization like a political party or trade union to commit an illegal act for which they can be punished. Example: The union soon suspected him of being an agent provocateur and expelled him.

amour-propre (French):
(ah-MOOR PROP-r)
Self-esteem; self-love; vanity. Example: If you are lacking in amour-propre, no one will take you seriously.

au courant (French):
(oh koor-AHN)
Up-to-date; well up in or informed in. Example: To be au courant one must read several newspapers daily.

B Words

bete noire (French):
A black beast; a pet aversion; a detested person. Example: Knowing that Thomas ' Becket was the King's bete noire, a group of loyal knights murdered him in the cathedral.

bon vivant (French):
(bon vee-VAHN)
An epicure; a lover of good living; a man about town. Example: Beau Brummel was a famous bon vivant of the eighteenth century.

C Words

chef-d'oeuvre (French):
(shay DUH-vr)
Chief work, a masterpiece. Example: War and Peace is Tolstoy's chef-d'oeuvre.

Collage (French):
A piece of art composed of various material; wood, cloth, newspaper, etc., an assembly of different fragments (see montage)

contretemps (French):
Embarrassing moment. Example: The groom's dropping the ring was the first in a series of contretemps that mad a shambles of the wedding.

coup de grace (French):
(koo duh GRAHS)
A blow of mercy; the death blow; a final decisive stroke. Example: We had won a series of naval victoris, but the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the coup de grace that finished the war.

D Words

de rigeur (French):
(duh ri-GUHR)
In good form or taste; according to strict etiquette. Example: In American courtship today, a chaperon is no longer de rigeur.

dernier cri (French):
(der-nuay kree)
The last word; the latest fashion. Example: This gown by Dior is the dernier cri from Paris.

deshabille (French):
Undressed or partly undressed; in negligee. The expression also appears as en deshabille. Example: For her to be seen in the garden en deshabille was definitely compromising.

E Words

enfant terrible (French):
(ahn-FAHN the-FREE-=bl)
A bad child; a child whose behavior is embarrassing; a person who embarrsses his party or organization by blunt remarks. Example: Charles Wilson's inopportune remarks made him the enfant terrible of the Eisenhower cabinet.

en rapport (French):
(ahn rah-POR)
In harmony; in mutual understanding and sympathy. Example: For a satisfactory song recital the singer and the accompanist must be en rapport.

F Words

femme fatale (French):
(fahm fa-TAHL)
A woman who lures men to destruction; a female sapy, an irresistable beauty. Example: In former times the "vamp" was the motion picture conception of the femme fatale.

fin de siecle (French):
(fahn duh SYEH-kl)
End of the (19th) century; a period free from social and moral traditions; decadent. Example: He belongs with the French fin de siecle school of writers.

H Words

hors de combat (French):
(or duh kom-BAH)
Out of the combat; incapacitated, disabled. Example: Glenway strained a ligament in his first race and was hors de combat for the rest of the season.

I Words

idee fix (French):
A fixed idea; an obsession. Example: Communism is an idee fixe with him; he seems communism as the case of all his troubles.

ingenue (French):
An innocent or ingenuous girl, especially as represented on the stage; the attress who plays such a part. Example: She is too old to play an ingenue, but no one can equal her in such a role.

insouciance (French):
Lack of concern; indifference. Example; His is the insouciance of the rich who have never known hardship and deprivation.

M Words

maitre d'hotel (French):
(MAY-tra do-TEL)
A steward or butler; a headwaiter. Example: To get a direable table in that restaurant on must give the maitre d'hotel a large tip.

melange (French):
A mixture; a medley. Example: This room is furnished in a melange of Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Grand Rapids pieces.

menage (French):
Household; family. Example: The expenses of the king's menage amounted to over a million pounds a year.

mise en scene (French):
Stage setting or equipment; the surrounding in which anything is seen. Example: He is a fascinating reconteur because of the way he describes the mise en scene of a story

montage (French):
Arrangement in one composition of pictorial elements borrowed from several sources; a picture made this way. Example: The director of the picture has attempted to achieve effefcts by the use of montage, but the elements do not blend, and the film lacks artistic unity.

N Words

`noblesse oblige (French):
Nobility obligates; a code of behavior of the aristocracy; the graciousness of the nobility. Example: The Rockefeller family's give to the school is an excellent example of noblesse oblige.

Nouveau riche (French):
(noo-VO REESH)
The newly rich; up-start. Example: It took little time for the nouveau riche to force his way into society.

P Words

piece de resistance (French):
(PYESS duh ray-zee-STAHNS)
The main course or dish; the most valuable object in a collection. Example: Of all these paintings, the Goya is the piece de resistance, the one most widely admired and coveted.

Potpourri (French):
Mixture; medley; miscellany. Example: This stage piece is a boring potpourriof song, dance, spectacle, miming and skits.

Q Words

qui vive (French):
Who goes there; an alert, usually preceded by "on the". Example: The security poilice are on the qui vive for any muttering or complaints that may develop into resistance.

R Words

raison d'etre (French):
(ray-ZON DET-r)
Reason for being; justification. Example: Many acute and tolerant critics can find no raison d'etre for Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer.

rapport, (French): see - en rapport

rapprochement (French):
Development of mutual understanding; a term in diplomacy for the establishment of friendly relations between countries. Example: For a short while after the death of Stalin, I had some hope for a rapprochement between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Rendezvous (French):
An appointment or engagement of two or more people to meet at a fixed time or place; a place for such a meeting. Example: Their midnight rendezvous was a small restaurant in the Loop.

riposte (French):
In fencing, a quick thrust after a parry; a quick answer; repartee. Example: In time he learned to curb his tongue and withhold the sharp riposte.

S Words

sang froid (French):
(sahn frwah)
Cold blood; self-possession; composure. Example: With the utmost sang froid the housing inspector admitted that he had accepted favors from the Red Star Construction Company.

soupcon (French):
Suspicion; a bit; a small portion. Example: The ragout needs a soupcon of sherry.

T Words

tour de force (French):
(toor duh FORCE)
A feet of skill or strength; a trick in music, drama, or literature; an exhibition of great technical or mechanical skill. Example: The series of literary parodies in Ulysses is a dazzling display, a tour de force that shows Joyce's mastery of language and his intimate knowledge of English literature.

V Words

vis-a-vis (French):
Face to face with another; opposite; in reference to; opposed to. Example: When he stands vis-a-vis his accusers, I am sure that his bravado will disappear.

volte-face (French):
(volt FAHSS)
An about-face; a complete revsersal of policy, opinion, or attitude. Example: It is preposterous to hope that China will execute a volte-face and agree to disarmament with inspection and controls.


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