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10 words that English borrowed from French

I looove languages. I like to teach them, I like to learn them. I enjoy thinking about the similarities and contrasts between English and Portuguese, Portuguese and French, French and Italian, and so on.

When introducing vocabulary, I can't help but think about the origin of some of the words I'm teaching.
I thought that would make for a fun post to share with you.

Since I teach English and have taught French, I thought it would only be fitting to start with…


1. BOULEVARD
Baron Haussman is the one responsible for creating,  in the mid-19th century, the wide avenues for which Paris is known for. An example is the Champs-Élysées.
As a movie buff, that word immediately reminds me of the classic movie "Sunset Boulevard". None of my students knows what I'm talking about…Do you?

2. PRAIRIE
I first heard this word when learning about the American prairies and find it curious that such an American word actually comes from Old French. I think that's more a case of "stealing" instead of "borrowing" a word.

3. AMATEUR
This word means exactly the same thing in French, but the pronunciation is different. Sometimes, when I'm saying this word in French conversation, the American accent takes over and I really sound like an amateur :)

4. FIANCÉ(E)
Ah, l'amour! I think romance has everything to do with the French language and it comes as no surprise that the word for an engaged man/woman would come from it.

5. MARDI GRAS
Mardi = Tuesday and gras = fat. Literally, "fat Tuesday". I know, I know, you don't really need to learn how to say "fat" in any language other than your own.

6. RÉSUMÉ
When preparing a résumé, people have to summarize what they've done so far in their career and that's what the word means: summary.

7. CLICHÉ
Literature and cinema abound with it: the overused expression or situation. Yet, I love myself a good clichéd rom-com every now and then :)

8. DÉJÀ VU
You have seen this one before…You have seen this one before…

9. OMELETTE
10. CHEF
The French cuisine is praised worldwide and many words and expressions related to food and cooking are taken from French, such as "omelette", "chef", "sous-chef", "croissant", "entrée", etc.

Well, it's about dinnertime as I write this post, so let me go eat the omelette with toasted croissant prepared by my amateur chef husband!

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READ at For French Immersion7 Pinterest boards for French teachers


READ: 10 words that English borrowed from Spanish


READ: 10 words that English borrowed from Portuguese


READ: 10 words that English borrowed from Japanese




See you soon,

13 comments:

  1. Ha ha ha - 'Fat Tuesday' and 'Omelette' are my favourites! I had no idea that many of these were acquired from the French....... great post - thanks for sharing. (Ohh and I should probably add 'fiance' to the list as I got engaged to my now hubby in Paris several years ago!) ;)

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    1. A Parisian engagement! Oh la la! That's so romantic :D
      Thanks for stopping by to read the post!

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  2. I always find it confusing that an English (or American) kitchen is full of Chefs, with one who calls him/herself Head Chef. Isn't it supposed to be full of cooks with one at the head, the Chef? Make me wonder who am I addressing when I call out: 'Chef, yes chef!'

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    1. Good point! If they're all chefs, who's the chef anyway? Guess there's no avoiding the adaptations a word suffers when it is "borrowed" : )
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I think my fellow Americans would be surprised to know just how much of our Language is directly from French...

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    1. Hi Billy, it's funny how languages borrow from other languages, isn't it?
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. From French, English has borrowed a LOT ! You can't imagine ! Even the jeans (yes, the Levi's) are from France ! At the beginning, the cloth came from Nîmes (de Nîmes), and the expression "de Nîmes" became first "denim", and then "jean". Which item is more american than a pair of jeans ?

    J-D Paolini found several words in recent publications that come from french, here are some of them : "art, ensemble, recent, model, capture, influence, perception, surprise, suggestion, deliberation, department, accusation, administration, defense, marine, corps, lieutenant, colonel, general, tribunal, memoir, proprietor, boutique, finesse, initiative, signal, fatigue, verve, routine, marche, pique"
    And here is the article (another french word, by the way) : http://mondesfrancophones.com/espaces/langues/les-mots-francais-en-anglais/

    I studied french litterature, and of course language, and everything about this interest me very much. Thank you for your good job !

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    1. I agree! The list could go on and on: art deco, art nouveau, nouvelle vague, femme fatale, voilà, par excellence, hors concours, etc!

      I LOVE languages too!

      Thanks for the link to the article and for your comment! Merci, thank you, grazie, arigatou, obrigada, gracias…


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  5. some parts of aircraft are from the french who developed the airplane after the wrights demonstrated it in paris.. Aileron, fuselage, empennage. These words described the parts of an airplane that had no english descriptions at the time before WWI

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