Tag Archives: French phrases used in English

Say It in French

     Norman French was introduced into England with the Norman Conquest in 1066.  Over the years, French words and phrases have slipped into fairly common usage in the English language.  After the demise of Latin as the common language of Europe in the 17th century, French became the diplomatic/common language of Europe.  Here’s a short list of French expressions used in English :

adieu    farewell
aide-de-camp                a military officer who is a personal asst to a higher-ranking officer
à la carte                      ordering something not “on the menu”
à la mode                      in fashion, style
àpropos  appropriate, to the point, with regard to
Attaché A person assigned to a diplomatic post
au contraire                 on the contrary
avant-garde                 Innovative, especially in the arts
billet-doux                  love letter
bon appétit                  Enjoy your meal
bon mot                       Clever remark
bon ton                        high society
bon vivant                   Person who knows how to enjoy life.
bon voyage                  have a good trip
carte blanche               ability to do what is needed
cause célèbre               A famous, controversial issue, trial, or case
c’est la vie                    that’s life
chargé d’affaires          A substitute or replacement diplomat
chic  stylish
cliché  an over-used expression or idea
coup de grâce              Death blow, decisive stroke
coup d’état                   Overthrow of the government
crème de la crème       best of the best
critique  critical review of something
cuisine   particular type of food/cooking
cul-de-sac                    Dead-end street
décolletage  low neckline
déjà vu                         feeling that you’ve already seen a place or done something
Demimonde disrespectful group or kept women
demitasse  small cup   
de rigueur                   socially obligatory
de trop                          Excessive, superfluous
double entendre          double meaning
du jour                        of the day
encore  again, repeat
enfant terrible             terrible child
en garde                      get ready for an attack
en masse                     all together
en passant                   in passing, by the way
en rapport                   agreeable
en route                      on the way
en suite                       together
esprit de corps            team spirit or morale
fait accompli              done deed
faux   fake
faux pas                      foolish mistake. 
fiancé, fiancée            engaged person
gauche    tactless
genre    type
haute couture             very high-end clothing styles
haute cuisine              fancy (and expensive) cooking or food
hors d’œuvre              An appetizer
joie de vivre                quality in people who live life to the fullest
laissez-faire                 A policy of non-interference
mal de mer    Seasickness
née   woman’s maiden name
noblesse oblige           responsibility of nobility
nouveau riche            someone who has recently come into money.
par excellence            preeminent, the best of the best
passé    old-fashioned, out-of-date
pièce de résistance    outstanding accomplishment
pied-à-terre                temporary or secondary place of residence.
protégé   Person whose training is sponsored by an influential person
raison d’être               purpose, justification for existing
rendez-vous                date or an appointment
repartee  quick, accurate response
risqué  suggestive
RSVP please respond
sang-froid                   ability to maintain one’s composure
Sans without
savoir-faire                tact or social grace
soirée    elegant party
soupçon  hint
souvenir     memento
tête-à-tête                  private talk another person
touché       “You got me.”
tour de force              requires a great deal of strength or skill to do
tout de suite               right away
vis-à-vis                      in relation to
Voilà “There it is!”

Tomorrow:     Don Quixote     Rita Bay

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized