Do you know these common nicknames and insults in French?

by Audrey Sivadier
February 15, 2021

Some say that French is the language of love. However, there are countless words to express feelings in French, but they’re not always feelings of love! The French often use very colourful expressions to qualify and judge other people. Here are a few of them… be careful how you use them!

French nicknames and insults with animals

French nicknames which include animals are the most common nicknames! Associating an animal with a quality or a fault seems to inspire the French a lot.

Une taupe (a mole)

This is an animal that sees almost nothing, which is why this term is used for a very short-sighted person.

Ce gars est une vraie taupe, ne lui demande pas de regarder là-bas au loin !– This guy is a real mole, don’t ask him to look over there in the distance!

At the same time, a mole is an animal that passes discreetly through underground tunnels.

Nous avons une taupe dans notre équipe, il faut la démasquer ! – We have a mole in our team, it must be unmasked!

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Un escargot (a snail)

Yes, it’s true, the French eat snails (yummy with garlic, butter and parsley). Remember, this animal has the defect of being very slow, so you can use it to gently insult the car in front of you:

Mais avance ! Quel escargot ! – But move on! What snail!

Etre une pince (a pincer)

Probably related to the crab’s claws, “une pince” designates a stingy person.

N’essaye même pas de lui demander de l’argent, ce gars-là est une pince ! – Don’t even try to ask him for money, this guy is a claw!

Un mouton (a sheep)

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) refers to a follower: a person who imitates without asking questions, who instinctively follows what the greatest number of people do and merges into a collective movement without exercising his critical mind or simply showing the intelligence that one can expect from a human being.

Ne fais pas comme tout le monde, ne sois pas un mouton ! – Don’t be like everyone else, don’t be a sheep!

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French nicknames and insults to say that someone is ugly

In the “animal” category, there are also lots of expressions that are used to say that someone is ugly. As the French language is often sexist, these terms are more often used to describe a woman than a man.

un thon (tuna)

This marine animal is ordinary, but if you use it when referring to a person, you will be attacking their physical integrity! It can be used to refer to both men and women.

Ce mec est un idiot, et en plus c’est un thon ! – This guy is an idiot, and what’s more, he’s a tuna!

Une morue (codfish)

To continue with marine animals, to describe a woman as a morue is pretty extreme. It means that she is very ugly or even a prostitute! To add intensity, it is often used with the adjective “vieille” (old).

Il a bien fait de la quitter, c’était une vieille morue ! – It’s a good job he left her, she was a tart.

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Moche comme un pou (Ugly as a louse)

We can well imagine that the comparison with this word will not be rewarding. Often “Moche comme un pou” is used for a man.

Ne sors pas avec lui, il est moche comme un pou. – Don’t go out with him, he’s ugly as a louse.

The louse is also used when you are offended. In that case, we say we are as upset as a louse.

Il n’a pas accepté ma décision, il est parti vexé comme un pou. – He didn’t accept my decision, he went off offended like a louse.

Un boudin (blood sausage/pudding)

To designate an ugly and fat girl, we can go through culinary comparisons.

Quand elle était petite, c’était un boudin ! Mais maintenant, c’est un top model ! – When she was young, she was a fat lump! But now, she’s a top model!

Une tronche de cake (a cake face)

Another well illustrated culinary comparison… It’s an insult to the face (“tronche”, the mug, in slang). This expression refers to an idiot. It’s very easy to use in the car too… not that we’d know… :

Mais regarde où tu vas, tronche de cake ! – But watch where you’re going, mug!

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Une brindille (A twig)

It is a short, thin tree branch. This image can be associated with a boy or a girl.

Tu es fin/fine comme une brindille. – You are thin as a twig.

Vieille branche : (old branch)

This expression seems slightly aggressive, but it isn’t. It’s used to call out to an old friend.

Comment ça va vieille branche ? – How are you, old pal?

Faire la plante verte (foliage plant)

Here’s one last expression, which is also very sexist. It is often used to refer to young girls who are at events to smile and look pretty – like a decoration.

Les filles à l’arrivée du Tour de France sont simplement là pour faire les plantes vertes. – The girls at the finish of the Tour de France are simply there to make the green plants.

You have now improved your tank of French insults! Don’t forget to book your next lesson with Lingoda to enrich your repertoire of less offensive vocabulary!