The English Language

Borrowed Words From

126 Words Listed

French Language Notes

"The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur."
George W Bush, USA President (2000 - 2008)

French is an Indo-European language spoken in France, Belgium, Swizerland, Canada, Louisiana (USA), West Africa, the Caribbean and Indo-China.

There are hundreds of words borrowed from French into English - only a selection is given here. They can be grouped into several classes:

Food and eating ("biscuit", "menu"), military terms ("camouflage", "coup d'etat"), diplomatic words ("diplomat", "regime"), entertainment ("ballet", "sport") and many others.

a la carte from the card One of many food, restaurant and cookery terms from French.
abattoir   Place where animals are slaughtered.
ambulance walking hospital Used to treat wounded soldiers - one of many military terms from French.
arson burn Crime of deliberate burning. One of many legal and political words from French.
attaché attached (to Embassy) One of many diplomatic terms from French.
ballet little dance One of many entertainment terms from French.
bayonet   Named after its place of origin.
biscuit twice cooked Has different meanings in USA and UK.
bon vivant good liver Someone who enjoys life.
bribe beg  
cabaret tavern Entertainment provided while guests are at the table.
cache hidden  
camouflage disguise  
carte blanche blank cheque  
chauffeur stoker Professional driver.
corduroy king's clothes A type of cloth.
coup d'etat   The taking of power by force, as in 'military coup'.
coupon piece cut off Detachable ticket.
courier run A messenger.
crayon big chalk  
crochet little hook  
croquet   A game played on grass. The same root as 'crochet'.
debris break down  
denim from Nimes A type of cloth.
dentist tooth person  
detour turn away  
diplomat back form  
dossier bundle of papers  
en masse   All together.
en route   On the way.
entrepreneur   Business person.
envoy send  
espionage spying  
etiquette ticket Rules of social behaviour.
fait accompli thing done What would be called a 'done deal' in the USA.
faux pas false step A blunder.
gaffe   A blunder.
gourmet wine taster Judge of good eating.
grape   A berry used in wine making.
hors d'oeuvre outside the work Extra dish served as a starter for a meal.
laissez faire let act As in 'anything goes'. Lack of government intervention.
lieutenant place holder Military rank. Pronounced LEFT-tenant in UK and LOOT-tenant in USA.
macabre from 'Maccabee'  
margarine   Butter substitute.
marinade pickle in brine From the same root as 'marine', of the sea.
maroon   To leave someone on a desert island.
mauve mallow A purple colour.
mayonnaise   Named after its place of origin. Shortened to 'mayo' in the USA.
memoir memory  
menu list Originally a restaurant term, now used in computing.
mortgage dead pledge Payment and security on a property.
mutiny move  
nasal   Of the nose.
nomad pasture Tribe roaming for pasture.
nouveau riche new rich The recently wealthy.
omelette   Beaten and fried eggs.
panache feather Display of swagger.
par excellence   Of special excellence.
parachute   Silken cloth used for descending slowly.
picnic   An outdoor meal.
plaice   A flat fish.
plaque tablet  
portrait depict  
promenade take a walk  
queue tail To wait in line. Used more in UK than USA.
rôle   From the roll of paper containing an actor's part.
raison d'Etre reason for being Purpose.
rapport carry again Harmonious relationship.
ratchet lance head  
rectangle straight angle Four sided figure.
regal   From a word for 'king'.
regime   System of government.
relay   Originally a set of fresh horses for a journey.
renaissance rebirth  
rendezvous present yourselves Place appointed for a meeting.
reprimand repress An official rebuke.
reservoir reserve supply  
resign surrender  
restaurant   Public eating place.
revenue return  
rifle groove  
roast gridiron Cook meat in oven.
roulette little wheel  
rout disorderly retreat  
route marching orders Pronounced RA-OOT in parts of USA and ROOT in UK.
routine   The same root as 'route'.
séance a sitting  
sabotage clatter with wooden shoes Wooden shoes used to be thrown into machinery to stop it.
sachet little sack  
salvage to save  
satchel little bag  
sauce to salt  
saucer   From the same root as 'sauce'.
sauté tossed  
saveloy from brains Sausage made from brains.
savoir faire how to do Knowing how to do the right thing.
sirloin above the loin Choice cut of meat.
somersault leap above  
soufflé blown Made light and frothy.
soup broth  
souvenir memory  
spiral like a coil  
splendid with shine  
sport   An amusement or game.
suède from Sweden  
tampon wad for packing gun  
tangerine   Named after its city of origin in Morocco.
tapestry to carpet  
torture twisting  
traffic trade  
trophy   Originally the arms of a vanquished enemy put on display.
umpire from 'non per', not equal The term 'a nonper' lost its letter N to become 'an umpire'.
unique of one  
velocity swiftness  
version turn  
visa things seen  
wardrobe look after garment  
zest orange peel  

[Borrowed Words (Frankish)] [Borrowed Words (Gaelic)]

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