Want to learn some useful French expressions, words and slang that you probably don’t cover in French class? We compiled a list of colloquial (everyday) terms you’ll hear in France. You can sprinkle them into your conversations to sound more fluent or smile to yourself when you hear your French friends use these words.
Since this article is extremely popular there will be a followup post with an additional 25 words. So here’s the first 25 French expressions and slang words you don’t learn in French class (unless your French teacher is awesome).
This French expression is used a lot by teenagers and younger people, this is how they say something is cool, similar to « trop bien ». You can also use « stylé » (pronounced: stee-lay) as a standalone compliment for things such as clothing, tattoos, a drawing, etc…
« Hé mate-moi ça, c’est trop stylé ! »
Recently I was surprised when my cousin kept saying this term and I had no clue what it meant. Ever since he explained it I heard it being used by my relatives, my friends in the South and even the teachers I worked with. Faire gaffe is just another way to say « faire attention » or pay attention, watch out, be careful. Make sure you conjugate the verb faire when necessary.
« Fais gaffe à la marche. »
These two words are extremely useful. En fait (pronounced: ohn-fet) can either connect two phrases, or be used as an interjection. Franchement accentuates speech and bring attention to an opinion.
« Ah si franchement il est génial ! »
Ça y est !
Ça y est (pronounced: sigh-ay) is a little French expression that has two main meanings. It’s usually a replacement of the word “finally” in French, « c’est fait / enfin ». However it’s also an expression that can be used when you find something you were looking for.
Pompette & Déchiré
Oh man, two of my favorites words right here (not sure what that says about me). These words describe one thing: different states of being drunk. Pompette is the equivalent of being tipsy in English; when you drank enough to feel it but not enough to regret anything. Déchiré is on the other end of the spectrum and it mean’s you’re WASTED… you’re hammered. Game over – déchiré. Get ready for that walk of shame tomorrow morning.
« Oh putain, hier soir j’étais déchiré(e). »
Bosser / Taffer
These two words are colloquial ways of saying the verb « travailler », or “to work”. If you want the noun le travail can be replaced by the word le boulot.
C’est Parti !
Let’s go OR let’s get started! You enthusiastically yell « c‘est parti ! » before starting a task or going somewhere with someone.
Nickel is French slang for the word “perfect”. When something is A-OK you can confirm it by uttering this easy French word.
Bouffer / la bouffe
These are more informal ways of saying “to eat” (manger) or “food” (la nourriture).
« Il faut que j’aille faire des courses si j’veux bouffer ce soir. »
La Vache !
This is an informal variant of “oh my god”. It’s when an unbelievable event contains compassion, surprise, and a myriad of other intense emotions. Your friend just fell down the stairs and before helping him up you scream this phrase. Then you stare in horror. Then you both laugh because he’s alright. Phew, la vache.
Bof / Bah / Euh
This is an easy way to up sounding fluent in French. Native French speakers don’t fill the silence in their speech with “um’s” and “uhhhh’s”, but rather with « euhhhh’s » and « bah’s »! These three words all are small interjections that should be incorporated into your French speech.
Bof signifies indifference, mild disappointment, or boredom in something. In English, bof is essentially the word “meh”.
Euh is the English equlavent of “um” or “uh”, it’s used to buy yourself time when trying to find your words while speaking.
Bah is another filler word, yet more often than not you’ll find it at the start of a sentence. Mais attention ! When you respond with the statement, « bah oui » to one of your friend’s questions, this indicates that he or she made an extremely obvious statement. The question was so evident that it didn’t even warrant a response.
« T’as mis la table ? »
« Bah oui »
« T’as pas mangé ? »
« Bah si, il est 14h00. »
Beuh / le Shit
I can guarantee your high school French teacher won’t let you in on these words, but they’re Snoop Dogg approved. Cannabis, Mary Jane, weed, however you want to call it, the French language also has many different terms for marijuana. Even though I’ve never smoked I decided it’s worthwhile to share these words because you hear them if/when people colloquially speak of marijuana. I heard these words quite often on the streets.
Une bagnole is just a synonym for the word car in French, « une voiture ». I find it to be a bit more dated, however you’ll hear it occasionally, especially in sentences such as:
« Ah c’est une belle bagnole ! »
Mec / Nana
Used in many parts of France and is generally understood to mean “dude” and “chick”.
Sympa is an abbreviation of the adjective « sympathique », and here I talk about how you can use this word and many others to sound more Parisian. It’s the perfect word.
I could write a whole article on this word, there’s even a TV show titled « Bref ». However me being long winded about a word which means “brief” or “in short” would be kind of ironic.
Bref is used when you want to make a long story short, instead of explaining every intricate detail of something, you simply utter the word bref and then get to the point.
During a toast rather than saying “cheers!” we say « Santé » in French. It’s a way to wish well upon each other’s health. Make sure when you’re toasting that you look the other person in the eyes otherwise you’ll be called out on being rude!
Well there’s your 25 words. What’s that, you want a bonus word? Oh why the heck not, I’ll treat you guys to a 26th word:
OH BONNE MÈRE
This is how the typical Marseillais expresses « oh mon dieu ». You’ll encounter this word during a football (soccer) match when those poor OM supporters get scored on in the 90th minute.
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Want to learn more types of French slang? Check out this post on French Slang (Verlan) as well as this one on French Texting Slang/Abbreviations.
Well there you have it, 25 French expressions and slang words you don’t learn in French class.
Hello! Thanks for this list of words. I want to know the French equivalent for ‘man/dude’. As in , ‘sorry man/ hey dude’. Do they use desolé mec or any other word?
My father-in-law used to have an expression in reference to a home that wasn’t kept up by those who lived there. It sounded like “chez de boo”. I would like to know its real meaning and also how to spell it correctly.
In my first semester of college French, I was very much impressed by the supposed existence of a French word that meant “…go together well.” Now, after the passage of many years, I found myself wanting to use the word. I thought that it was something like “chebui “, but I can’t find it anywhere. Can anyone out there help me?
“C’est chouette” ? (meaning, looks fine)
Let´s say that some of them are tipical Parisian French expressions. Anyway it is very helpfull.
No they’re not typically parisian, they’re used everywhere all the time.
I often see the phrase “coucou” as in “coucou, les filles” . I understand that it is mostly likely slang and is probably a greeting. I was just wondering if you knew what was the “real meaning” of this is and if you had any idea from where or when it started. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Basically it means “Hello” or at least it is used like that
Coucou means Hello but you have to use it only with friends.
Coucou mean’s hello it is mostly uesd in Cameroon
It comes from kids, who say “coucou” when unhiding.
So “coucou” to adults is a gentle way to say “here I am”.
It can be aggressive, depending on the tone or if you don’t speak to close friends, with the meaning “here I am… and you don’t listen”.
I believe you’re more likely to hear “defoncé” than “déchiré” to say wasted. It’s been a while since I last heard the latter.
Could you tell me what ‘top’ means? Like when someone says, “C’est top!”
What is the translation in english?
Top can mean cute or nice and people say tooop more o for the more cute or nice.
It means, ‘It’s great!’
i’m a french student (15yo) and “c’est top” means the same thing as “c’est trop bien” like in english “it is very cool”
if someone need some translation or abbreviations contact me, I will can help you.
“c’est bien” “c’est génial”
It means “great” or “nice”…
C’est tope means It is cool or it is stylish depending on the context. Basically it comes from the english word ‘top’ which means something is really good. For example , top dawg
As a native English speaker I wouldn’t think “top” means good. In that example top means above, so “top dog” means better than all the other dogs, and just means better. We can use the English phrase of “being on top”, or “He’s at the top of his game”. Mostly the word top refers to a t-shirt haha. I need to buy a new top, or I really like my black top.
here’s an oldie : “Tu as le cul bordé de nouilles !” – literal translation is “you have the bum surrounded by noodles” – it means ‘you have luck following you around’
“c’est top” = it’s very nice :)
Sorry, i respond on the wrong comment ^^’
Can someone tell me what PLS means?
PLS= Position laterale de sécurité= recovery position.
Young people say that when they’re seek, in troubles, it’s like you’re KO.
Hope my explaination was clear ^^
What is “dm1”?
Chatting version of “Demain” morning
It’s fascinating seeing what
abbreviated spelling comes out as
in a different language !
Vs avez oublié qu’en France tout est petit. ….une petite salade un petit verre un petit coup un tout petit peu une petite sauce etc etc……écoutez bien et vs entendrez très très souvent. …petit petit petit 😁
Vous avez oublié “fin”😝
There’s 2 other words and they are so French: “truc” and “machin”. both have a common sense: it’s something you don’t say (or forget) the real name but you know what it is. “truc” is usually a small object and can be everything. As an example “j’ai trouvé un truc par terre, ça doit être à toi” (I’ve found something on the floor, it must be yours). “Truc” can also mean “gimmick”. “Truc” is not only an object, it can be an idea or an event: “Il s’est passé un truc entre elle et moi hier soir” (something happened between she & I yesterday night). “J’ai un truc à te dire” (let me tell you something). “Machin” can be a “truc” as well: “j’ai trouvé un machin par terre”. It can also name a guy you don’t know (or don’t say or forget the name) “machine” for a girl. Tu as vu machin ce matin ? (Did you see the guy this morning?). “Machin” can be a big object or accentuate the fact it is a big object: “Quel machin!”
Bref, I didn’t even realise sympa was slang. Thought it was standard French.
Also, regarding tu et vous, I call everyone who calls me vous, vous and everyone who calls me tu, tu. There is no way I’m letting someone talk ‘down’ to me – as also goes for a lot of my work colleagues.
Hey Chris, thanks for you comment! I agree with you on the tu & vous aspect. If someone wishes to guard their distance or remain polite then our conversations shall remain formal. If you want to get to know me on a personal level then changing that subject pronoun is one way to get started. When I worked in France I used tu with almost all my co-workers despite them being maybe 20-30 years older than me. They were awfully friendly and we met up a lot outside of work.
Regarding “sympa”, I had to cater my list to all levels of French learners so I included it for real beginners. In my French class, way back when, we only learned the full word (sympathique). When making these lists I always try to adhere to the same principle: common knowledge for one person is a brand new flashcard for another! I offer a second list with 25 more words to negate any feelings of being “cheated” :D
Have a great day!
These are fun. Thanks for sharing them.
BTW: The past tense of to drink is drunk – as in “when you’ve drunk enough…”
I wanted “you drank” thanks.
We also use “la Caisse” (litteraly “the Box”) as a slang synonym for “la Bagnole”.
Yeah, but “une caisse” initially means “a box”… In slang however, refers also to the act of drinking so much you’re “déchiré”. One puts a “caisse” on himself, as in the following type of phrase:
“Hier soir je me suis mis une caisse, j’étais déchiré(e).”
There will certainly be room for 25 more words.
Great post! Probably worth pointing out that pompette tends to be only used when talking about women.
pompette is also rarely used and also refers most of the time to “snob” people, “ho je suis pompette”
“snob” peoples can also be described as “quelqu’un qui a un balai dans le cul”
Great post. I know and use many of these but there are several new ones that I will start to sprinkle into my conversation. Trop stylé!! J’adore la France.
Pas mal pour un petit aperçu des beautés de notre langue. Congratulations and keep going!
Merci. Very helpful words. As someone who is not yet fluent (even though I somehow managed to earn a B.A. in French years ago,) I seldom get to speak with anyone with whom I’d feel comfortable enough using these expressions. In fact, on the language exchange site where I write to pen-pals, I’ve been reprimanded for using ‘tu’ numerous times. The problem is that so many contemporary French learning texts insist on teaching informal French. So much so that I forget the formal usage. I assume those books assume that one is practicing with young fellow students who would not use vous. Anyway, enjoyed your post.
You forgot the tradionals and controversials ” Putain ” and ” PFFF “
Putain isn’t really slang, it’s just vulgar :)
But how do you know I forgot anything? Check out the next few slang articles Charlotte!
I have seen an expression on Facebook “tu dates” that translates to “you date” even if I reversed that it doesn’t make English sense…in the context that I see it anyway…any idea what it really means slang-wise?
Verb “Dater” in French means being from specific time in the past, consequently, not being up to date.
“Le journal date d’hier” = Newspaper date from yesterday
“Tu dates” (to a person) : your knowledge is out of date.
“Tu dates” means “It has been a long time that I did not hear about you.”