French Words in English. Part 1

“Boy, those French! They have a different word for everything.”

Steve Martin, an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and musician

French and English are both Indo-European languages, but English is Germanic and French is Romance. Even so, there are numerous words of French origin which are used in modern English. If you are interested in why it is so, you may want to read about the Norman Conquest of England. Most of the French vocabulary now appearing in English was imported over the centuries following the 11th-century invasion and occupation. However, many of the borrowings were actually Latin in origin. For example, “example” is from Old French essemple, which is, in its turn, from Latin exemplum (source). (Remember the abbreviation e.g. – it stands for “exempli gratia,” which is the Latin for “for the sake of example” (“exempli” is “exemplum” in the genitive case)). 

But in “French Words in English. Part 1” and “… Part 2” we’d like to focus on words which are written and read pretty much like in their language of origin – French. However, they are commonly used in English, surprising and confusing learners. Read on to clear up any possible confusion.

1. Café (also cafe) /ˈkafeɪ,ˈkafi/ (pronunciation): This is a pavement cafe serving drinks and light meals.

2. Soufflé /ˈsuːfleɪ/ (pronunciation) – a food that you make with eggs and bake into a high round shape: Who made this delicious lemon soufflé? 

3. Baguette /baˈɡɛt/ (pronunciation) – a long, narrow French loaf: The toasted baguette pieces are dipped in the curry and eaten.

3. Croissant /ˈkwæsɒ̃/ (pronunciation):

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I’ll buy coffee and croissants.

4. Hors d’oeuvre /ˌɔː(r) ˈdɜː(r)v/ (pronunciation) – a food served in small amounts before the main course of a meal; an appetizer: At a fancy party, waiters might walk around with trays of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres.

5. Bon appétit /ˌbɒn.æp.əˈti/ – said to someone who is about to eat (pronunciation): Here is your beef. Bon appétit!

6. Bon voyage /ˌbon vɔɪˈɑːʒ/ – used for telling someone who is leaving that you hope they have a pleasant journey (pronunciation): He wished us bon voyage. 

7. Rendezvous /ˈrɒndɪvuː/ (pronunciation) a) a meeting arranged for a particular time and place, especially secretly: We have a rendezvous for next week, don’t we? b) the place where people have agreed to meet: This restaurant is a popular rendezvous for local artists.

8. Raison d’être /ˌreɪzɒ̃ ˈdetrə/ (pronunciation) a) the reason why something exists or is considered to be important: Love is the family’s raison d’être. b) the main purpose of someone’s life: Work is her whole raison d’être.

9. Joie de vivre /ˌʒwɑː də ˈviːvrə/ (pronunciation) – a feeling of pleasure and excitement that comes from enjoying life: Yorkshire people are known the world over for their generosity, outward-going nature and sheer joie de vivre.

10. Faux pas /ˌfəʊ ˈpɑː/ (pronunciation) – something embarrassing that you say or do in a social situation: I made some remark about his wife’s family, and then realized I’d made a serious faux pas.

11. Haute couture /ˌəʊt kuːˈtjʊə(r)/ (pronunciation) – expensive and fashionable clothes, or the business of designing and making them: Haute couture clothing is marked by superior craftsmanship and is usually made by hand. Someone who makes or sells these clothes is a (haute) couturier /kuːˈtjʊərieɪ/: Jean-Paul Gaultier is a French couturier.  

12. Prêt-à-porter /ˌprɛtəˈpɔːteɪ/ (pronunciation) – designer clothes sold ready to wear rather than made to measure: This season’s prêt-à-porter for men was the most outlandish it has been in in decades. 

13. à la carte /ˌɑː lɑː ˈkɑː(r)t/ (pronunciation) – an à la carte menu has foods that have separate prices rather than combined into a meal that costs a fixed price: 

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This menu is à la carte.

14. Facade (also façade) /fəˈsɑːd/ (pronunciation) – a) the front of a building, especially a large or attractive building: The façade is made of limestone. b) the image a person presents to others: Behind her façade of gentleness was a tough competitor.

15. Cul-de-sac /ˈkʌl.də.sæk/ (pronunciation) – a) a short road that is blocked off at one end (mainly British English; American English – dead end): The house is in a quiet cul-de-sac. b) a situation that leads nowhere: I hope we’ll reach he end of the cul-de-sac. 

16. The Louvre /ˈlv(rə)/ (pronunciation) – the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France: The Louvre opened on 10 August 1793. 

17. The Eiffel /ˈfəl/ Tower (pronunciation) – a famous tall structure in Paris, made of metal, that is often regarded as a symbol of Paris or France: the Eiffel Tower is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

18. The Champs-Élysées (pronunciation) – an avenue in Paris: The Champs-Élysées is known for its theaters, cafés, and luxury shops. 

19. Notre-Dame /ˌnɒtrə ˈdɑːm, ˌntrə ˈdm, ˌntrə ˈdɑːm/ (pronunciation) – a medieval Catholic cathedral in Paris: Major components that make Notre Dame stand out include one of the world’s largest organs and its immense church bells.

20. The Arc de Triomphe (pronunciation) – a triumphal arch in Paris: Beneath the vault of the Arc de Triomphe lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

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