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Commonly Used French Words in the English Language


One thing to remember before we talk about specific French words is that most European languages have Latin in common. Latin actually almost forms the base of the most dominant languages, such as English, French and Spanish. And since the English and the French have very strong ties in history, it is more than natural that these two share more than just a few words between them. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used ones.

A la carte: You’ve probably seen these three words numerous time as you peruse the menu that’s just been given to you at a restaurant. A la carte’s literal translation in English would be at the card, which means on the menu in this instance. This however refers to ordering individual dishes rather than a fixed-price meal, such as a lunch special.

Au pair: You will find that these two French words are very common across the UK. An au pair usually describes a person, most of the time female, who exchanges house work and baby-sitting services against lodging and board in another country.

Brunette: Another word that is possibly one of the most used in English is brunette. In French, a brunette specifically pinpoints a girl who has brown or dark brown hair. However, for a woman, brune is used, and brun for a man. As such, brunette is rarely used in France.

Concierge: A concierge is a word used to determine someone who is at the reception space of either a hotel, an apartment building or other residences. The word itself stems from the Latin word conserves, which meant “fellow slave”. In French, it basically means “keeper of the keys”.


Déjà vu: You may have come across those two words more than once, as it is very commonly used. In French, déjà vu means “already seen”, which explains the strange feeling one has when experiencing this phenomenon. It is basically a trick our brain plays on us, making us believe we have already experienced what is currently happening.

Éclair: A marvellous French pastry, an éclair is a slim pastry cased filled with cream and topped with some chocolate icing. Éclair is a word used to designate lightning or a flash of light, when we are not referring to the pastry. No one is certain why the pastry was named éclair, maybe because it does not last very long on one’s plate?

Fiancé: Used almost worldwide in all English-speaking countries, fiancé is employed when someone wants to describe their significant other, whom they are about to marry. The feminine version would have an extra letter e added at the end, fiancée. Sometimes, when this word is used in France, it can mean a steady boyfriend or girlfriend, and not necessarily two people who are betrothed.

Haute Couture: Found in the world of fashion, haute couture literally means “high sewing”. Couture also translates into “dress making” but the haute here suggests that the material and craftsmanship used are of the highest quality. This can mean that extreme attention was paid to the pattern, while the most experienced sewers have used complicated sewing techniques to make the garment.

There are quite a lot more French words that are used every day by English speaking people. Let’s not forget that the language of aristocracy back in the day used to be French only, which also explains why we are left with so many French words today. Click here to head over to our website to view our courses and find out which English programme is for you!

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