A guide to 9 insults in French
Published on February 15, 2021 / Updated on August 16, 2023
Some say that French is the language of love. However, the more you improve your fluency you will realize there are countless words to express feelings in French and they’re not necessarily loving feelings! The French often use very colorful expressions to qualify, judge and even insult other people. Insults are never the way to go in any interaction, but as for the all worst situations, it is better to be aware of what they are to be able to recognize them and avoid them. Finally, the insults we will list below are not as derogatory and in some cases can be used as nicknames with an additional message. What we will cover in this post includes:
Animal-themed insults in French are the most common ones and, as mentioned, they can be interchangeably used as nicknames! Associating an animal with a quality or a fault seems to inspire the French a lot.
This is a subterranean animal, commonly believed to be blind. This is why this term is used for a very short-sighted person.
At the same time, a mole is also an animal that passes discreetly through underground tunnels. When using this expression to refer to someone, what you mean is that the person goes unnoticed.
Yes, it’s true, the French eat snails (yummy with garlic, butter and parsley). Remember, this animal moves slowly and takes its time. So, next time you are in a hurry and the car in front of you will not leave you the way you can yell:
Probably related to the crab’s claws, une pince designates a stingy person.
This expression comes straight from 16th-century literature and the work of François Rabelais. A sheep (from Panurge, one of the characters in the story) is used as a metaphor to describe somebody who imitates without asking questions, who instinctively follows what the greatest number of people do and merges into a collective movement without exercising their critical mind.
Some insults leveraging animal-related jargon slipped into our second category that targets mainly someone’s looks.
In the marine kingdom, this fish is quite ordinary, but if you use it when referring to a person, you will be attacking their physical appearance! It can be used to refer to both men and women.
We can well imagine that the comparison with this word is not rewarding. But French people found a way to use it in two different contexts. Often this expression is used to refer to the looks of a man.
The poor louse stars in a different case. In this situation, the focus shifts to the fact that someone is truly upset.
And since France and food go hand-in-hand, we couldn’t not include a food-themed colorful expression aiming, this time, at the face of the poor target. A scenario where you would possibly find yourself whipping out this insult could be while you drive and somebody cuts your way.
It is a short, thin tree branch. This image can be associated with a boy or a girl.
This expression might sound slightly aggressive, but it isn’t. It’s used to call out to an old friend.
As we conclude our journey through these colorful expressions, let’s remember that while insults can amuse and entertain, they also remind us of the fascinating complexity and diversity of human communication. So, next time you delve into the world of the French language, don’t just embrace its beauty but also admire the finesse of its insults that add a touch of spice to the tapestry of words.