99 French words we use in English all the time

November 10, 2023

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. 

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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.

And French isn’t the only language that has made its mark on the English language. There are plenty of Spanish words in English, and a good handful of Japanese words in English, too.

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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

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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


Guess the origin 🇬🇧-🇫🇷

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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?

There’s so much more to French than these 99 words

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