UN French Language Day

March 20, 2023

French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and French Language Day is celebrated annually on 20 March.

It's estimated that there are thousands of French words that have made their way into the English language over the centuries. Many of these words are borrowed from French due to the cultural and historical influence that France has had on the English-speaking world.

French has traditionally been considered a language of refinement and sophistication, with many French words having been adopted to add a touch of elegance to the English language – mostly relating to fashion, food, art, and literature.

Today with the help of technology, the world is becoming more globalised, meaning different languages and cultures are interacting with each other as they never could before. This has led to an inevitable exchange of words and phrases between many languages. And we Anglophones love a bit of linguistic thievery and appropriating words from other languages to pretend we knew them all along!

A selection of Babel’s favourite French words or phrases that are used in everyday English include:

bon appétit – to express enjoyment of a meal

bon voyage – to wish someone a good trip

camouflage – a pattern used to blend in with one's surroundings

chauffeur – a driver, often for a private car or limousine

cliché – meaning overused or stereotypical

cul-de-sac – a dead-end street or situation

débris – broken pieces of material

décolletage – a low neckline on a woman's dress or blouse

déjà vu – the feeling of having experienced something before

en masse – meaning in a group or all together

en route – something is on the way

encore – a request for an additional performance, often used at the end of a recital

ennui – a feeling of boredom or dissatisfaction with life

façade – the front or side of a building

fait accompli – a completed action, an inevitable outcome

faux pas – a social mistake or blunder

fiancé – a man to whom someone is engaged to be married

lingerie – women's undergarments or sleepwear

matinée – an afternoon performance, often used in the theatre or cinema

montage – a sequence of images or scenes put together to create a larger work

née – commonly used to denote a woman's maiden name

passé – outdated or old-fashioned

pot-pourri – translated into English is ‘rotten pot’, but are fragranced dried flower, fruits and herbs used to get rid of bad odours

rendezvous – a meeting or appointment, especially a romantic one

RSVP – an acronym (répondez s’il vous plait) meaning please respond, usually included in an invitation

sabotage – intentionally damaging or interfering with something

souvenir – a memento or keepsake


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