12 English words used in the French language
Published on February 16, 2023 / Updated on January 3, 2024
If you’re keen to learn French at a fast pace, you may be encouraged to learn that a growing number of English words are commonly used in the French language. These words appear in all areas of life — in the workplace, in the media and in daily conversation.
While all these anglicisms can help you quickly expand your vocabulary, be forewarned: They don’t always mean what you think they do. Be sure to learn their exact meaning and use cases in French, which may differ based on the context. Such English words may also have a slightly different pronunciation in French.
While it’s impossible to list out all the anglicisms that appear in French, we’ve selected twelve of the most common and useful ones.
It may well be one of the oldest and commonest English words to appear in French — a sign that the French enjoy their relaxation as much as anyone. Le week-end is so widespread that its literal translation (la fin de la semaine) doesn’t mean “weekend” anymore, but rather “the end of the week.” Make sure to spell it with a hyphen and to pronounce it with a slight French accent in order to be understood.
This is another English word that has long been used in French, so much so that the white letter “P” appears on blue road signs to indicate a parking lot nearby. You can also hear the word in the phrase une place de parking (a parking spot). But don’t try to use this one as a verb. The action “to park a car” is expressed by garer la voiture, stationner or the reflexive verb se garer.
The second word ending in “-ing” in our list (but definitely not the last), le shopping refers exclusively to browsing and buying fashion items such as clothes, shoes, jewelry and other accessories. In that sense, faire du shopping (to go shopping) is different from faire les courses (to go shopping for food).
From un jean to le t-shirt, there are many English words commonly used in French to refer to different clothes. But le pull, or le pull-over, is an interesting case because it’s a slightly more generic word that may refer to either a pullover or a sweater. If you want to be more specific, you may use such phrases as un pull à col roulé (turtleneck sweater) or un pull ras du cou (crew-neck sweater). The word is also pronounced slightly differently, with the dreaded French letter -u. If you pronounce it the English way, it will sound like the word poule (hen).
From sweet pastries to full-on gourmet meals, French gastronomy is world-renowned. But if you’re in a hurry, you may be happy to simply grab un sandwich. Just be forewarned that you may not find the same ingredients as you would at home. (In most cases, this is by no means a bad thing.) Le sandwich jambon-beurre (ham-and-butter sandwich) is by far the most popular, but you can take your pick among the many fine options available.
Contrary to English, le shampooing doesn’t refer to the act of washing your hair, but rather to the product you need to do it. It’s also used in the term un après-shampooing (hair conditioner), which literally means “after shampoo.” Beware that the pronunciation of shampooing is quite different from the English.
Thanks to globalization, daily work life is full of words that are the same in English and in French. Par exemple: le job is an oft-used alternative to un travail (a job), une profession (a profession), un poste (a position) and un métier (a trade).
If you work in a French office, you’ve probably already heard your colleagues talk about le meeting. Even though the French word la réunion has exactly the same meaning, the English term has become quite common in France.
In French, many technology-related terms are taken from English, as the case of un e-mail suggests. Although the correct spelling includes the hyphen, it’s commonly written without it, as follows: un email. The pronunciation is the same in both languages.
This is another clear example of English infiltrating French through the shared language of technology. The latest variety of téléphone mobile is called un smartphone in French, rather than un téléphone intelligent.
If you fancy practicing your language skills by watching a French movie on Netflix, you may find it ironic that this very activity is also called le streaming in French.
If you enjoy watching talk shows on French TV, you may have already seen more than une interview of famous celebrities. The word has even been turned into the -er verb interviewer. However, it’s important to note that the term une interview is exclusively used in the media arena. In the business world, the word un entretien is more common, such as in the case of un entretien d’embauche (a job interview).
These twelve examples should give you a good idea of just how extensively English words have invaded the French language. But in spite of appearances, such borrowed words don’t always exactly match how they’re used and pronounced in English. So, be sure to review their meanings (or, as the case may be, their alternate meanings) before dropping them into a French conversation.