5 English words that come from French

Modern English takes words from several languages: Latin, German, Spanish and the language of Gauls and Gainsbourg, French. It’s generally thought that around 10,000 English words have been borrowed from French.

Today, we take a look at words of French origin used commonly in English today.


This first entry is pretty crunchy. In old French, the verb toster meant ‘to grill’ or ‘to roast’. The word toster actually comes from the Latin tostus which means grilled or burned. And in English it has come to mean “toast” of course.


Let’s linger in the breakfast aisle with the word “bacon”. The sizzling delight likely stems from the 14th-century French word bacun which translates to the appetizing “back meat”. Some etymologists believe that bacon may also come from the Dutch word bak (pig), and was perhaps even taken from the old German word “bache” (sow, a female boar). All of these influences created the word “bacon” as we know it today.


In English, the adjective “foreign” comes from the French word forain, which means “someone who is from the outside”. The adjective originally comes from the Latin word foranus, from foris (“outside”), and refers to someone who has gone outside, or from outside.

Note: in French, the term fête foraine is used to describe a funfair or traveling carnival, very popular across France.


In these uncertain times, it would be a mistake to leave home without a “handkerchief”. The word kerchief is actually a mispronunciation of the French phrase couvre chief. The term comes from the English word “kerchief”, which arrived in English dictionaries around the 13th century and means “a scarf on the head”.


We end this list with a word full of hope. The English verb “to achieve” comes from old French achever, which stems from the word chief which means “head” in Latin.

Hang on – there’s more! Don’t leave this page without checking out our latest piece on 15 French words used by English speakers!

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