12 French insults that won’t start a fight, but would still be considered rude

There are numerous ways to insult a French person. Tug on their beret, penetrate their mime box, cut a piece of cheese improperly, or take the ultimate risk and don’t look them in the eye while raising a glass.

In any case, Gymglish is happy to showcase 5 French insults that would likely bring dishonor upon your house, which is annoying. Use at your own risk.

Beauf (\bof\)

The word beauf – a great example of an untranslatable French word – has two distinct meanings. One is an affectionate abbreviation of beau-frère meaning your brother-in-law, whilst the other is a French slang term that describes a vulgar or unsophisticated person.  An English equivalent might be “a hick”, “a rube” or a “yokel”. This insult is thought to have originated in the 1970s when a beauf referred to a French person lacking culture. This insult was and is, of course, often employed by condescending Parisians to generalize about non-Parisians. Hey, ici c’est Paris.

Example: “Jean-Pierre est un vrai beauf. Il joue à la pétanque, écoute du Johnny Hallyday et boit du pastis du matin au soir.” – “Jean-Pierre is a real yokel. He plays pétanque, listens to Johnny Hallyday and drinks pastis from dawn till dusk.”

Naze (\naz\)

T’es vraiment un naze”. A charming and timeless French insult, ideal for beginners. Naze can be used to describe situations or people that appear to be idiotic, dumb or lame. There are far ruder words than naze, but do bear in mind that the word is said to be the shortened version of the word “nazi” (or “nasi”) which made reference to those suffering from syphilis in the 19th century. That’s… not great.

Example: “Anna devait acheter un pack de bières pour la soirée mais a pris du vin blanc à la place, quelle naze !”. “Anna was supposed to buy beers for the party but bought white wine instead. What a rube!” Harsh words, sir or madam, you know Anna is syphilitic.


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Branleur / Branleuse

Learning how to curse in French will open doors. What kind of doors they open is a different question. Still, best you have the tools to get to the places you want to go, you naughty Francophile. The French term branleur (along with the feminine form branleuse) comes from the French verb branler which means “to masturbate”. The noun translates as “wanker,” and generally refers to somebody lazy. An English equivalent might be “lazy sod” (UK) or “lazy bastard”.

Example: Jean se lève à midi tous les jours, prend son petit déjeuner et enchaîne les épisodes de ‘L’amour est dans le pré’ au lieu de chercher du travail. C’est vraiment un branleur !

Translation: Jean gets up at noon, has breakfast and watches back-to-back episodes of L’amour est dans le pré instead of looking for a job. What a lazy sod!

Andouille (/ænˈdu.i/)

A French expert like yourself is probably aware that andouille is actually a famed, stinky pork sausage the French go crazy for, but the word is also an old-fashioned insult, roughly translated to “dummy”. Use this term to describe someone stupid or just plain lazy. While it is slightly outdated, andouille is a pretty effective rude word to use, and also kid-friendly for when you’re insulting the intelligence of your toddler. Note: you can also use it to criticize someone’s behavior “tu fais l’andouille”, literally “you’re acting like a fool”. You silly sausage. No wonder French takes so long to learn.

Example: “Espèce d’andouille, tu as ramené des roulés aux saucisses à la soirée Vegan de Laura, t’es fou ou quoi ?” – “You dummy, you brought sausage rolls for Laura’s vegan dinner, what are you crazy?”

Ta gueule

While most of us go to great lengths to remain polite even, there will be some instances when one needs to blow off some steam. Slipping in a casual ‘ta gueule’ will undoubtedly add fuel to the flames. The French verbal attack ta gueule is the shortened form of ferme ta gueule and translates as “shut up” or “shut the f*ck up” if you’re well and truly pissed off.

The term gueule translates as “muzzle “or “maw” (as in an animal’s mouth) and is a pejorative way of referring to someone’s mouth or face (much like the English “trap” or “gob”) You can see just how quickly this interjection can escalate matters.

Did you know? Contrary to other slurs from this list, ta gueule can also be used humorously and/or sarcastically, but will require some tact.

Example: – Olala, le PSG a perdu 3 contre 1 contre l’OM hier soir !

  • Ta gueule !

Translation:   

  • Damn, PSG lost 3-1 against OM last night!
  • Shut up!

Chiant.e (\ʃjɑ̃\)

Slightly scatological in nature, this adjective is a mainstay in casual conversations. Figuratively translated as “annoying” or “boring”, this insult literally describes something that is a pain in the ass, or in other words “shitty”. Pardon our French. Or should we say our French grammar. This word can refer to a sub-optimal person or situation and is decidedly pejorative. If you want to express displeasure, you could also use the word relou – the inverted slang (verlan) of lourd (heavy, awkward) common among French youngsters – which is basically the same thing, but carries a little bit of extra oomph. 

Example: “Les grèves RATP durent depuis des semaines, c’est vraiment chiant.” – “The train strikes in Paris have been going on for weeks, it’s a real pain in the ass.”

Va te faire foutre

Consider your most hated coworker. It feels like they deserve a powerful insult, one that will make them regret ever getting on your bad side. Might we suggest a well-timed ‘va te faire foutre’? This 19th-century insult should not be taken lightly. An English equivalent of this insult might be “go f*ck yourself” or “up yours”.

Pro Tip: Other variants of the insult include va te faire voir (if you want to sound a bit less rude) or va te faire enc*ler (if you want to sound ruder).

Example: – Thierry a quitté la soirée sans dire au revoir aux hôtes, tu te rends compte ?

  • Qu’il aille se faire foutre !

Translation: – Thierry left the party without saying goodbye to the hosts, can you believe it?

  • He can go f*ck himself!


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Trou de balle / trou du cul

How to insult a French person in style? Trou de balle is one option. This gros mot colorfully makes reference to somebody being a perfect a*shole, as the French terms balle and cul both describe the anus or rectum.

There’s no doubt about – this term carries an extra oomph that is hard to convey in another language. A word of caution: overusing this curse word may make heads turn.

Did you know? The French expression le trou du cul du monde translates as “bumf*ck” as in “the middle of nowhere”.

Example: Tu es vraiment un trou de balle quand tu dis des choses pareilles !

Translation: You can be a real as*hole when you say things like that.

Blaireau (/blɛ.ʁo/)

Objectively the best French insult and one of the many reasons to learn French a blaireau is literally a “badger”. Used colloquially, it’s an insult expressing that someone is a jerk, a moron and an imbecile at the same time. Funnily enough, the word describes an old-fashioned shaving brush. While we are fond of badgers at Gymglish, and find them to be excellent dinner guests, we’d advise you to avoid this sticky wicket unless you’re directly addressing a family of badgers.

Example: “David c’est un vrai blaireau, il a encore oublié d’apporter son CV pour son entretien d’embauche.” – “David is a real moron, he forgot yet again to bring his CV to his job interview.”

Sac à merde

If this list has taught us anything, it’s that the French are fairly poop-obsessed. Sac a merde translates as “bag of s*it” or “poo bag” and describes a worthless or stupid thing or person. 

Culture Tip: This curse word is featured in the 1995 French film Les Trois Frères in which Bernard Campan asks “Sac à merde, c’est une insulte ?” (Is “bag of shit” an insult?).

Note: If you find this insult has crossed some sort of line or boundary, you can use tête de noeud (a slightly less vulgar version of “d*ckhead”) which more or less carries the same meaning.

Example: – Non je ne raccompagnerai pas ta mère chez elle, j’ai la flemme. Elle n’a qu’à prendre le bus.

  • T’es vraiment qu’un sac à merde, tu le sais ?

Translation: – No, I won’t take your mother back home, I can’t be bothered. She can take the bus.

  • You truly are a piece of sh*t, do you know that?

Tabarnak / Tabernacle

We travel to the Great White North for this penultimate insult. The Canadian insult tabarnak is a phonetic rendition of the term “tabernacle”, which refers to the ornamented box in which Communion hosts and wine are kept. In Quebec, it has become a very popular swear word used to express anger, annoyance or surprise. This foul term has the approximate weight of “holy sh*t” or “holy f*ck” in English.

Example : Nous ne sommes pas parties en vacances depuis plus d’un an, tabernacle !

Translation: We haven’t gone on holiday for more than a year, holy sh*t!

Bonus insult: Glandu (/ɡlɑ̃du/)

If someone calls you a glandu, it’s an insult to be worn with pride and another dangerously useful insult to add to your lexicon and quite possibly your French idiom list. This slang word makes reference to an uneducated, stupid person who doesn’t do much. Cultural note: Glandu is also the name of a famous radio presenter on NRJ. Personally, I won’t be listening, but if you’re caller number 5 you could win something crazy. Call now, standard phone rates apply.

Put*in de me*de that felt good! Swearing en français is an art in and of itself. Dying to learn more about how to insult a French person? Fret not, we’ve got you covered with Frantastique, fun and personalized online French courses.


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