99 French words we use in English all the time

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

But did you know that English is so close to the French language, that around 30% of English words come from the language of love?

Some of these French phrases in English (otherwise known as cognates!) are borrowed directly from the French language, while others have evolved from French origins.

We’ve put together some responses to some of the most common questions about the French presence in the English language for you, plus 99 examples of how English words didn’t fall too far from the French tree. 

Everything you’ve ever wanted, right?

Why are there French words in the English language?

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 phrases and words – funny quirks and all – continued to make their way into the English language.

How many French words are there in English? 

There exists around 7,000 French words in the English language at present.

Believe it or not, though, there were plenty more English words that came from French (and typically Latin) roots originally – around 10,000, to be exact.

Do any examples come to mind? At this point, I’m sure you’re desperate to see some examples of English words with French origins… 

Let’s start with 99 (we thought any more might be a bit much!).

Here are 99 common French words used in English, and their meaning

  1. Allowance – from the Old French word alouance (payment)
  2. Apostrophe – from the French word apostrophe
  3. Attaché – from the French word attaché (attached)
  4. Apéritif – from the French word apéritif 
  5. Avant-garde – from the French word avant-garde
  6. Aviation – from the French word aviation
  7. Bachelor – from the Anglo-Norman word bacheler (bachelier in modern French)
  8. Baguette – from the French word baguette (stick)
  9. Ballet – from the French word ballet
  10. Beret – from the French word béret
  11. Bon voyage – from the French phrase bon voyage (have a good journey)
  12. Brunette – from the French word brunette
  13. Bureau – from the French word bureau (desk, office)
  14. Cabaret – from the French word cabaret
  15. Cadet – from the French word cadet
  16. Champagne – from the French word champagne
  17. Chauffeur – from the French word chauffeur
  18. Chic – from the French word chic (elegant)
  19. Cliché – from the French word cliché
  20. Connoisseur – from the French word connoisseur
  21. Cul-de-sac – from the French word cul-de-sac (bottom of the bag/sack)
  22. Debris – from the French word débris (broken, crumbled)
  23. Déjà vu – from the French words déjà (already) and vu (seen – past participle of ‘voir’)
  24. Delegate – from the Old French word delegat
  25. Detour – from the French word détour (from détourner)
  26. Dossier – from the French word dossier
  27. Eau de toilette – from the French word eau de toilette
  28. Elite – from the Old French word elit (chosen)
  29. Energy – from the Middle French word énergie
  30. En route – from the French en route
  31. Envisage – from the French word envisager
  32. Expatriate – from the French word expatrier
  33. Facade – from the French word façade
  34. Faux, as in faux fur – from the French word faux (false)
  35. Faux-pas – from the French word faux pas
  36. Fiancé – from the French word fiancé
  37. Film noir – from the French word film noir (a film genre)
  38. Gallery – from the Old French word galerie
  39. Gastronomy – from the French word gastronomie
  40. Gateau – from the French word gâteau
  41. Gazette – from the French word gazette
  42. Heritage – from the Old French word eritage (héritage in modern French)
  43. Homage – from the Old French word homage
  44. Hotel – from the French word hôtel
  45. Identity – from the Middle French word identité
  46. Illusion – from the Old French word illusion
  47. Insult – from the Middle French words insult (noun) and insulter (verb)
  48. Irony – from the Middle French word ironie
  49. Jubilee – from the Middle French word jubile (modern French jubilé)
  50. Kilogram – from the French word kilogramme
  51. Lacrosse – from the Canadian French word la crosse (the stick)
  52. Laissez-faire – from the French word laissez-faire (leave things to take their course)
  53. Liaison – from the French word liaison
  54. Literature – from the Old French word littérature
  55. Machine – from the Middle French word machine
  56. Magnificent – from the Middle French word magnificent
  57. Maisonette – from the French word maisonette
  58. Massage – from the French word massage
  59. Menu – from the French word menu
  60. Metabolism – from the French word métabolisme
  61. Metro – from the French word métro
  62. Musketeer – from the French word mousquetaire
  63. Navy – from the Old French word navie
  64. Neutral – from the Middle French word neutral
  65. Nocturnal – from the Middle French word nocturnal
  66. Novel – from the Old French word novel
  67. Occasion – from the Middle French word occasion
  68. Omelette – from the French word omelette
  69. Optimism – from the French word optimisme
  70. Papier-mâché – from the French word papier-mâché
  71. Parasol – from the French word parasol
  72. Poetic – from the Middle French word poétique
  73. Premiere – from the French word première
  74. Purify – from the Old French word purifier
  75. Recipient – from the Middle French word récipient
  76. Rendez-vous – from the French word rendez-vous (appointment)
  77. Reservoir – from the French word ‘réservoir’ (collection place)
  78. Restaurant – from the French word restaurant
  79. Ricochet – from the French word ricochet
  80. Rich – from the French word riche
  81. Ridicule – from the French word ridicule
  82. Risqué – from the French word risqué
  83. Sabotage – from the French word sabotage
  84. Salad – from the French word salade
  85. Sentiment – from the Old French word sentement
  86. Silhouette – from the French word silhouette 
  87. Solicitor – from the Middle French word soliciteur
  88. Souvenir – from the French word souvenir (memory)
  89. Soufflé – from the French word soufflé
  90. Soup – from the French word soupe
  91. Technique – from the French word technique
  92. Television – from the French word télévision
  93. Tournament – from the Old French word tornoiement (tournoiement in modern French)
  94. Uniform – from the Middle French word uniforme
  95. Utensil – from the Old French word utensile
  96. Valid – from the Middle French word valide
  97. Variety – from the Middle French word varieté
  98. Vinaigrette – from the French word vinaigrette
  99. Zest – from the French word zeste

If you’re an English speaker and you ever thought French was difficult (or a French speaker and ever thought English was difficult!) hopefully, this is something to reassure you: no matter whether you’ve got your French pronunciation accent down or not, the learning process may be easier than you think!

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


We’re Busuu, an app that makes learning a language easier for everyone. We’d be happy to help you speed your way to fluency in French in record time!

Eloy was 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!