If you’re approaching French fluency, or curious about the rough and tumble lexicon of the back alleys of Bordeaux, we suggest you complete your daily online French lessons Frantastique, because in full disclosure, we work for Frantastique.
On the other hand, this article will give you a crash course on French slang, and if you’re lucky, some of these words may be inconnus au bataillon.
Without further ado, here are 5 words that will earn you mad respect on various boulevards, avenues and rues – and help you learn French online.
This one is a tasty snack. And it makes etymological sense, even for beginner learners of French. From the verb casser (“to break”) and dalle (a slang word for “hunger”), it’s not so different from the English “break (the) fast” if you think about it, though its use is far less formal. Concretely, un casse-dalle often refers to an oversized chunk of baguette filled to the brim with saucisson and/or camembert.
Note: the word “dalle” is versatile: avoir/crever la dalle (lit. “to have a slab”, translates as “to be starving”), que dalle (lit. “no slab”, translates as “zilch” or “naught”), avoir la dalle en pente (lit. “to have your slab on a slope”, translates as “to be a drinker”) and many more.
Example: “N’oublie pas de prévoir un casse-dalle pour notre randonnée de demain.” “Don’t forget to take a sandwich for tomorrow’s hike.” Hikes = major street cred.
If you thought this word is the French word for “pious”, you’d be wrong. It’s actually rather the opposite. Pieu is an 18th-century slang term to refer to the word “bed”. For instance, if someone were to call you bon au pieu you should take that as a compliment. Do we still have to detail the endless reasons to learn French?
Note: the French also use a derivative verb, se pieuter, which means “to hit the sack”. We couldn’t be more explicit.
Example: “Je dois absolument rattraper mon sommeil, je vais me pieuter.” “I have to catch up on sleep, I’m going to bed.”
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Bagnole (a car, a ride, a whip) is one of those vintage words the French just can’t seem to give up, and who can blame them? This colloquial term originates from banne and carriole, used to describe a cart carrying raw material like coal. Topical.
Note: Renault, Peugeot, Citroën and other four-wheeled conveyances can also be called une caisse (lit. “a box”), chignole or tacot. French is hard to learn, we must admit.
Example: “Tu as une sacré bagnole ! On va faire un tour ?” “You’ve got a heck of a car! Shall we take her out for a spin?”
While the French are notoriously serious about their booze, they have done an outstanding job of making it as colloquial as ever on their home turf. Pinard is a colorful word which refers to wine, but not just any wine, the cheap and cheerful kind. The word is believed to originate in the 19th century as a derivative of Pinot, the most common red wine grape variety.
Note: feel free to use other terms for your bargain-priced wine such as picrate, vinasse or piquette.
Example: “Passe-moi le pinard. Je vais me soûler ce soir.” “Pass me the wine. I’m going to get plastered tonight.” Your ambition is exceeded only by your taste.
You’re unlikely to stumble upon this word in French class. Make room for baraque, the slang equivalent of “house”. Originally, baraque is used to describe a small, shanty house made out of wood. It doesn’t refer to the 44th POTUS, though we do miss the heck out of that guy.
Note: Other vocabulary options include zonz and bicoque. Also, you’ll be glad to know the adjective baraqué refers to someone who has a lot of muscles.
Example 1: “J’ai économisé pendant 10 ans pour une superbe baraque à Ivry-sur-Seine, mais il y a de gros travaux à prévoir”. “I’ve been saving up for 10 years for a crib in Ivry-sur-Seine. But it needs doing up.”
Example 2: “Je n’avais pas vu Paul depuis deux ans : tu as vu comment il est baraqué maintenant ?” “I hadn’t seen Paul for two years: he’s so built / cut now.”
This list couldn’t end without the mention of cheese, and not just any cheese. Camembert has been around since the 18th century and is unlikely to go anywhere but straight to our hips, know what we mean? As a tribute to this stinky delight, the French have created not one, but two slang terms to refer to it. Calendos or claquos?
Want more of that good French slang for your toolbox? Want to find out how you can easily learn French? We’ve got you covered. Try our online French course Frantastique for free today: short bursts of French culture in just 10 minutes per day.
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