86 French words we use in English

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You’re probably aware that we regularly use plenty of French words in English.

But did you know that around 45% of English words come from French?

Some are words borrowed directly from French, others have evolved from French words.

Why does English have French words?

The origin of the English language is a topic linguists love to debate.

Although English is a Germanic language, it shares a lot of vocabulary with French – a Romance language.

But why?

The Norman Conquest of 1066 was a key event that led to French words being used in England.

Following the conquest, England was ruled by the Normans who spoke a northern form of Old French called Anglo-Norman French.

Under Norman rule, Anglo-Norman French began to influence the language of administration, law and culture in England, and hence making its mark on the English language.

Since then, French words continued to make their way into the English language.

At this point, I’m sure you’re desperate to see some examples of English words with French origins!

Here are 86 English words that come from French:

French words in English

  • Allowance – from the Old French word ‘alouance’ (payment).
  • Apostrophe – from the French word ‘apostrophe’
  • Attaché – from the French word ‘attaché’ (attached)
  • Aviation – from the French word ‘aviation’/
  • Bachelor – from the Anglo-Norman word ‘bacheler’ (bachelier in modern French)
  • Baguette – from the French word ‘baguette’ (stick)
  • Ballet – from the French word ‘ballet’
  • Beret – from the French word ‘béret’.
  • Bon voyage – from the French phrase ‘bon voyage’ (good journey)
  • Brunette – from the French word ‘brunette’
  • Bureau – from the French word ‘bureau’ (desk, office)
  • Cabaret – from the French word ‘cabaret’
  • Cadet – from the French word ‘cadet’
  • Champagne – from the French word ‘champagne’
  • Chauffeur – from the French word ‘chauffeur’
  • Chic – from the French word ‘chic’ (elegant)
  • Cliché – from the French word ‘cliché’
  • Connoisseur – from the French word ‘connoisseur’
  • Cul-de-sac – from the French word ‘cul-de-sac’ (bottom of the bag/sack)
  • Debris – from the French word ‘débris’ (broken, crumbled)
  • Déjà vu – from the French words ‘déjà’ (already) and ‘vu’ (seen – past participle of ‘voir’)
  • Delegate – from the Old French word ‘delegat’
  • Detour – from the French word ‘détour’ (from détourner)
  • Dossier – from the French word ‘dossier’
  • Eau de toilette – from the French word ‘eau de toilette’
  • Elite – from the Old French word ‘elit’ (chosen)
  • Energy – from the Middle French word ‘énergie’
  • Envisage – from the French word ‘envisager’
  • Expatriate – from the French word ‘expatrier’
  • Facade – from the French word ‘façade’
  • Faux-pas – from the French word ‘faux pas’
  • Gallery – from the Old French word ‘galerie’
  • Gastronomy – from the French word ‘gastronomie’
  • Gateau – from the French word ‘gâteau’
  • Gazette – from the French word ‘gazette’
  • Heritage – from the Old French word ‘eritage’ (‘héritage’ in modern French)
  • Homage – from the Old French word ‘homage’
  • Hotel – from the French word ‘hôtel’
  • Identity – from the Middle French word ‘identité’
  • Illusion – from the Old French word ‘illusion’
  • Insult – from the Middle French words ‘insult’ (noun) and ‘insulter’ (verb)
  • Irony – from the Middle French word ‘ironie’
  • Jubilee – from the Middle French word ‘jubile’ (modern French jubilé)
  • Kilogram – from the French word ‘kilogramme’
  • Lacrosse – from the Canadian French word ‘la crosse’ (the stick)
  • Laissez-faire – from the French word ‘laissez-faire’
  • Liaison – from the French word ‘liaison’
  • Literature – from the Old French word ‘littérature’
  • Machine – from the Middle French word ‘machine’
  • Magnificent – from the Middle French word ‘magnificent’
  • Maisonette – from the French word ‘maisonette’
  • Massage – from the French word ‘massage’
  • Menu – from the French word ‘menu’
  • Metabolism – from the French word ‘métabolisme’
  • Metro – from the French word ‘métro’
  • Musketeer – from the French word ‘mousquetaire’
  • Navy – from the Old French word ‘navie’
  • Neutral – from the Middle French word ‘neutral’
  • Nocturnal – from the Middle French word ‘nocturnal’
  • Novel – from the Old French word ‘novel’
  • Occasion – from the Middle French word ‘occasion’
  • Omelette – from the French word ‘omelette’
  • Optimism – from the French word ‘optimisme’
  • Papier-mâché – from the French word ‘papier mâché’
  • Parasol – from the French word ‘parasol’
  • Poetic – from the Middle French word ‘poetique’
  • Premiere – from the French word ‘première’
  • Purify – from the Old French word ‘purifier’
  • Recipient – from the Middle French word ‘récipient’
  • Rendezvous – from the French word ‘rendez-vous’ (appointment)
  • Reservoir – from the French word ‘réservoir’ (collection place)
  • Ricochet – from the French word ‘ricochet’
  • Ridicule – from the French word ‘ridicule’
  • Risqué – from the French word ‘risqué’
  • Sabotage – from the French word ‘sabotage’
  • Sentiment – from the Old French word ‘sentement’
  • Solicitor – from the Middle French word ‘soliciteur’
  • Soufflé – from the French word ‘soufflé’
  • Technique – from the French word ‘technique’
  • Television – from the French word ‘télévision’
  • Tournament – from the Old French word ‘tornoiement’ (modern French ‘tournoiement’)
  • Uniform – from the Middle French word ‘uniforme’
  • Utensil – from the Old French word ‘utensile’
  • Valid – from the Middle French word ‘valide’
  • Variety – from the Middle French word ‘varieté’
  • Zest – from the French word ‘zeste’

Believe it or not, there are plenty more English words that came from French originally.

Can you think of any other examples?

If you’re an English speaker and you ever thought French was difficult – hopefully, this is something to reassure you!

You already have a good understanding of so many French words – why not learn even more today?

Eloy is the Senior French Language Expert at Busuu. He was born in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, but his parents are both from Galicia in Spain. He grew up speaking Galician and Spanish at home, and French at school and with friends. Later, he went to university in Brussels. After he graduated he spent two years living in the Caribbean. He loves nature and travelling and can’t go a day without going swimming!

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