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10 French slang words you should know

By Jean
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When it comes to learning a new language, understanding the colloquial expressions, or slang, can be a delightful yet challenging aspect. French, with its rich linguistic tapestry, is no exception. French slang, often termed as “l’argot,” is not just used by the youth but is peppered throughout everyday conversations among people of all ages. Let’s dive into the colorful world of French slang and explore its nuances, origins, and applications.

The Roots of French Slang

French slang, much like its counterparts in other languages, has evolved from various sources. From the cobblestone streets of historic Paris to the modern urban areas, l’argot has been shaped by social, cultural, and historical influences. Some of the slang originates from verlan, a form of French wordplay that involves rearranging syllables, while others have roots in different dialects and languages.

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Common French slang

  1. Bouquin (Book)
    Not your regular livre, a bouquin is a much cooler way to talk about a book. “Tu as lu ce bouquin?” (Have you read this book?)
  2. Bosser (To Work)
    Forget travailler, when in France, you bosser! “Je dois bosser demain.” (I have to work tomorrow.)
  3. Fringues (Clothes)
    Upgrade your vocab wardrobe with fringues! “J’adore tes fringues!” (I love your clothes!)
  4. Mec (Guy)
    Referring to a guy? Mec is your go-to word. “Ce mec est sympa.” (This guy is nice.)
  5. Nana (Girl)
    And of course, for girls, say nana. “Cette nana est géniale.” (This girl is awesome.)
  6. Ouais (Yeah)
    Oui is yes, but ouais is yeah – casual and cool. “Ouais, ça marche.” (Yeah, that works.)
  7. Pote (Friend)
    Your amis are great, but potes are slang-level buddies. “C’est un de mes potes.” (He’s one of my friends.)
  8. Thune (Money)
    Cash in your argent for thune in your slang wallet. “Je n’ai pas de thune.” (I have no money.)
  9. Baraque (House)
    Ditch maison for baraque when talking about houses informally. “Ils ont une grande baraque.” (They have a big house.)
  10. Kiffer (To Like)
    Love liking things? Say kiffer! “Je kiffe ce film!” (I love this movie!)

Slang in Different French-Speaking Regions

French slang isn’t universal and can vary significantly from one region to another. For instance, the slang used in Paris might be different from that used in Marseille or in French-speaking countries like Belgium and Canada. It’s essential to be mindful of these regional differences to communicate effectively and avoid misunderstandings.

Example: “Chocolatine” is used in some parts of France, while “Pain au chocolat” is used in others, both referring to the same pastry.

The Role of Slang in French Culture

Slang plays a pivotal role in reflecting the dynamism and evolution of French culture. It is not merely a deviation from formal language but a testament to the living, breathing aspect of linguistic development. French slang encapsulates societal changes, youth culture, and historical events, providing a fascinating lens through which to explore and understand France and its diverse populace.

The Impact of Technology on French Slang

In the digital age, technology has significantly influenced the evolution and dissemination of slang, and French is no exception. The internet, social media platforms, and messaging apps have become hotbeds for the creation and spread of new slang terms among the French, especially the younger generation.

  • SMS Language (Langage SMS): With the advent of text messaging, a new form of French slang, often referred to as “Langage SMS,” has emerged. It involves abbreviating words and using numerals for sounds to keep messages short and swift. For example, “C” is used for “C’est” (it is), and “2m1” represents “demain” (tomorrow).
  • Internet Slang: Online platforms have given rise to a plethora of slang terms and acronyms that are widely used in digital communications. For instance, “mdr” (mort de rire) is akin to “lol” in English, expressing laughter.
  • Anglicisms: The global influence of English, particularly through technology and pop culture, has led to the incorporation of English words into French slang. Terms like “cool,” “fun,” and “weekend” are commonly used in informal French conversations.
  • Emojis and Symbols: The use of emojis and symbols to convey emotions, reactions, and responses is prevalent in digital communication. For example, “😂” is widely used to indicate laughter, while “👍” signifies approval.

Understanding and adapting to the technological influences on French slang is crucial for staying relevant and comprehensible, especially in digital communications with native speakers. It also provides insights into the modern and global influences shaping the French language today.

Navigating Through French Slang as a Learner

You’re now armed with a snazzy set of French slang words to sprinkle into your conversations and shine as a true local linguistic star. Remember, slang is the spice of language, adding flavor, fun, and a fabulous French flair to your chats.

Eager to unleash your newfound slang vocabulary on the streets of France? Embark on your journey to study French in a French language school and dive deeper into the delightful ocean of French language and culture. Immerse yourself in real conversations, hearty laughs, and the vibrant life rhythms of France.

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