Here are 17 typically used French words that don’t exist in English, but knowing castle will help you settle into the country and culture.

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Every language has them, words you cannot properly translate into English. They space the most interesting terms, due to the fact that they often define parts the a country’s culture. These French words speak that emotions and the means the French people express their feelings, but additionally some the France’s customs and habits – that etiquette even. A couple of also give you understanding into the notorious French sense of humor.


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Sortable is an adjective much more commonly supplied in the an unfavorable (“pas sortable“) to explain family members and friends that you can’t take out without fear of embarrassment. Sortir method going/taking out, so sortable is a neologism that very awkwardly converts to “that you can take out”.


Grandpas who make low-key racialism jokes, friends that crab-walk once they’ve had actually one too plenty of drinks, and children who usage restaurant fixtures together monkey bars are all “pas sortable“.


Google will tell you the this untranslatable French word method impediment, but it is a lot subtler 보다 that; literally, something the “prevents you”. Having an empêchement is a perfect polite factor to excuse tardiness or also cancel plans. No have to scramble to make up a details excuse: friend just had an ‘unexpected last-minute readjust of plans’.


The emotion of dépaysement that arises from no being in your home country, in essence ‘un-country-ing’, refers to the strangeness and also disorientation you feeling in a foreign environment. However, the does not have actually the an adverse tint of homesickness or culture shock.


Dépaysement is regularly used to define the hopeful feeling that discovering new horizons: landscapes, people, languages, food. The is miscellaneous French world look front to as soon as going on vacation in a foreign land.

L’esprit d’escalier

You’re can not to come up through the perfect witty comeback in the moment, however it hits you three hours later, commonly in the shower? that irritating inclination is known as “staircase wit”. Diderot, the 18th-century philosopher, coined it once he establish he could only think of an ideal retorts ~ walking far from one argument, literally… when walking down the stairs.


You traction yourself approximately with a extensive feeling that melancholy, dissatisfaction, and discouragement? You have actually the spleen. Invented by French poet Baudelaire, this term derives indigenous the English word for the yes, really organ. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, had actually theorized the our the atmosphere are regarded our bodily humors and secretions – stemming from our spleen.

L’appel du vide

“The speak to of the void” advert tothe impetuous advice to run from high places. It have the right to also more widely be supplied to describe all the other dark impulses that cross our minds: what if i drove into oncoming traffic? What if ns jumped off the subway platform? What if i stuck mine hand in this blender?


Interestingly, science says that these impulses are exactly the opposite of what lock appear. They do not stem from a desire to dice or hurt. Rather, they represent an affirmation of our will certainly to live. In brief, l’appel du vide, which sporadically occurs because that about fifty percent the population, scares us right into being more cautious.

La douleur exquise

Of course the French live as much as their reputation for romance and also tragedy and also have a one-of-a-kind expression to explain unrequited love. However there’s no must be French – or also a drama queen – to recognize that certain pain.

Check out our guide to dating in France

If you’ve likewise spent hrs staring out the home window listening to sad songs, reveling in the grief that your affection is not returned, you’ve competent la douleur exquise. Because let’s be frank: while heartbreak is painful, doesn’t it additionally make you feel exquisitely alive?


One of the most helpful French words you’ll generally hear is voilà. It have the right to be offered in a plethora that situations, and also translated into anything from “there the is” come “finally”. For example, as soon as something lengthy expected lastly happens: Voilà, enfin! Or when you have actually completed one assignment: Aah, voilà. Or also when friend hand something over to someone: “Tiens, voilà!“.


Flâner is the art of wandering a city’s highways with no score or final destination, just for the satisfied of soaking increase the atmosphere. Enjoying the moment for what that is, without any type of other score in mind, is ingrained in French culture.


The same method the French will certainly spend hrs chatting far at the dinner table, they will discover contentment in meandering a flea market, admiring wares, and conversing with other passers-by. Flâner‘s little sister can probably be another popular French pastime: le lèche-vitrines.


Some world hate shopping, and they’ll zero in top top the one store that tote what castle need. The French, ~ above the various other hand, will certainly spend hours “window-licking”. They may not also be in search of something specific, or even buy anything in ~ all! However, they’ll reap “flâner” if admiring the wares in the shop windows – probably gathering inspiration, or just enjoying looking at pretty things.


While the direct translation is to “take advantage”, the actual meaning of the verb profiter is an ext akin to “enjoy”. Follow me the very same vein as flâner and lèche-vitrines, it likewise conveys the French arts of just being in the moment. You have the right to profiter of the opportunity to cave out with someone friend cherish, or of passing by a pastry shop the carries very delicious croissants. Yet the word can additionally be used as a standalone: imagine you yourself sitting at a clear café terrace, enjoy it a glass the wine, looking in ~ the world pass by. What room you doing? “Je profite!


Retrouvailles is merely the minute you finally see a loved one again after a long absence.


A French word through no translation however which we can all relate to, particularly past the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it conjures increase touching pictures of joy, affection, and effusive hugs. Note: retrouvailles is constantly used in the plural.


In English, us joke the stupid civilization were more than likely dropped on your head as a baby. In the same vein, if you’re exhilaration crazy, French human being will ask if you’ve collapse on your head: T’es tombé sur la tête?

Taking the one action further, there’s also an untranslatable French word to describe people who room acting erratically: frappadingue. This hybrid adjective is a compound of frapper (to hit) and also dingue (crazy). While not an insult every se, it’s not an extremely friendly either, even though the French are well known for enjoy it a little bit of affectionate ribbing.

See more: “ Look Forward To Seeing You Again Or I Look Forward To See You Again?


There are apparently a huge array the crazy civilization in France, together this funny indigenous is likewise used to define them. However, it has actually a gentler meaning than frappadingue. The is rather provided to characterize one oddball, an eccentric, or a scatterbrain. Words is one infamously bad friend to indigenous English speakers, who have a particularly hard time express the French u.


Quel tohu-bohu!“, you’ll know the definition of this word if you find yourself in discount superstore Tati ~ above the day your cheap wedding costume go top top sale. This funny-sounding French word explains scenes the loud and also agitated confusion. Think of the pit at a absent concert, or a street show (which the French are renowned for). Noise and also chaos are what make the tohu-bohu.

Interestingly, this hard to analyze French native is acquired from Biblical Hebrew. Tohu-wa-bohu depicts the formless state of the earth before light was created.


Americans gain making funny of human being who “didn’t inhale”; the French went therefore far regarding create a word because that it. In an excellent part, to shame the posers.


Crapoter is a verb that explains the plot of cigarette smoking a tobacco (or something else) without inhaling. Teenagers love come mock your friends who organize the exhilaration in their mouth instead of acquisition a lungful: “Haha, tu crapotes!


We saved the most vital untranslatable French word for last. A national pastime, râler is no really complaining. It is neither loud, no one whiny, no one boisterous. It is rather how the French continuously express their continuous dissatisfaction with the world. No inconvenience is too insignificant to refrain from râler, and in fact, the French also do the alone in ~ home. To practice, just add a couple of decibels and also swear indigenous to everything you desire to mumble under her breath.