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Although you may not know it, we use many words on a daily basis that find their roots in French. So whether you’re trying to brush up on your language skill, or simply improve and expand your vocabulary there are plenty of French words used often in English. Many of which, we use on a regular, daily basis, often without realising it!

Here are a number of French words used often in English:

#1À la carte

On the menu!

#2 Art Nouveau 

This particular style of art was prevalent and popular in the period between 1890 and 1910. It’s characterised by decorative arts and is often applied to furniture, architecture and painting.

#3 Au pair 

This popular job is typically done by adults between the ages of 18-30. The person in question moves to a foreign country where they (usually don’t speak the language) and live with a host family in exchange for looking after the host’s children.

#4 Ballet

Although this popular dance emerged during the Italian Renaissance period, the word we use for ballet finds its roots in French.

#5 Bon Appétit

Literally translated as ‘enjoy your meal‘.

#6 Bon Voyage

Of all the French words used in English, this is the phrase you likely use in your day-to-day life already. Bon Voyage literally means ‘Have a good journey!’

#7 Chic

Stylish or ‘à la mode’ and fashionable!

#8 Cliché

Something that is overused or lacks original thought. Something that is ‘overdone’.

#9 Clique

An exclusive group of people or friends. In the UK and USA, a clique often refers to a group of high school friends.

#10 Crème de la crème

The very best. I.e. the ‘cream of the cream‘. In the UK, we often would translate this as the ‘cream of the crop‘. In French, you can also say ‘fin du fin‘.

#11 Cul-de-Sac

Originally used in French to denote a tube with only one opening, today it is used in English to describe a dead end street.

#12 Déjà Vu

Literally ‘already seen’. Literally ‘already seen’. (Ha- see what I did there!)

#13 Dieu et mon Droit

The motto for the British Monarchy, meaning ‘God and my right’.

#14 Encore

Again! This phrase is often used at live performances during concerts.

#15 En route

On the way!

#16 Entrepreneur

Someone who sets up their own businesses (often in the hope of making a financial gain).

#17 Façade 

Used to describe the exterior of a building.

#18 Faux Pas

Something you shouldn’t do and often used to describe an embarrassing blunder, act or mistake in the context of a social situation.

#19 Femme fatale

Often used to describe an attractive or seductive woman who seduces a man for her own gain. (This is primarily used as a sexist term)

#20 Fiancé(e)

As French is the ‘language of love’ it seems somewhat fitting that when you are engaged to someone, you call your betrothed you’re Fiancé(add an extra ‘e’ to the end if it’s a woman!)

#21 Haute Couture

Often used in fashion to denote a well-made and fitted clothing item, usually made by a famous and high-end designer, such as Dior or Chanel.

#22 Matinée

While in English we use this word to mean ‘a morning performance’, in French it is used to describe the morning. This is a false friend and does not mean the same in English as it does in French!

#23 Mirage

An optical illusion where you imagine something that isn’t actually there/ doesn’t even exist.

#24 Nouveau riche

Often used in English (particularly in the UK) to denote someone who has recently come into wealth and are living an opulent lifestyle.

#25 Nom de Plume

Literally ‘pen name’. Often used to describe an author who has chosen not to use their given name when publishing a book or novel.

#26 Pot-pourri 

A mix of dried petals, fruit or other sweet smelling mixes (usually natural) placed into a bowl to fragrance a room. Ironically, one theory about this word is that it was originally used in French to denote a 17th Century meat stew. The literal translation is ‘foul smelling pot’.

#27 Reservoir

An artificial lake often used to store drinking water.

#28 Risqué

Bold moves in either business or in your personal life.

#29 R.S.V.P

Yes, this common acronym actually comes from French and stands for ‘Repondez S’il Vous Plait’- ‘Reply, please’.

#30 Sabotage

This French word means to deliberately destroy or damage something.

#31 Souvenir

Coming back from holiday anytime soon? Planning to bring back souvenirs for your friends and family? Well, you can thank the French for the word!

#32 Vinaigrette

Yep, the stuff you put on your salad! In France, the most common kind of vinaigrettes tend to contain oil (usually olive oil), balsamic vinegar, and occasionally mustard (the type with seeds packs an extra punch), and some herbs.

Pin French words used often in English:

French words used often in English: French words we often and regularly use without even realising it!

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

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