Be it over text message, chat or even email, the practice of shortening words into a few characters has become as customary in French as it is in English. The most common abbreviated phrases in French are used quite frequently in colloquial conversation, so it can be useful to learn them, even if you’re still at a beginner level.
Whether they’re based on acronyms or they play with the sounds of numbers or letters of the French alphabet, French slang abbreviations can be imaginative and elaborate. To the unfamiliar eye, they may even look like secret codes to be deciphered. But fear not, we’ll help you decode them. Let’s discover ten of the most common French abbreviations and the logic behind them:
French text slang based on acronyms
As a reminder, acronyms are made from the first letters of the words they are replacing. For instance, the acronym RSVP originates from the French expression Répondez, s’il vous plaît (“Answer please”). They are one of the main ways to abbreviate words in French texts.
CPG is the acronym for the phrase C’est pas grave, (“It’s no big deal”). It’s worth noting that C’est pas grave is not entirely grammatically correct, as it’s missing the first half of the negation ne. The correct sentence is Ce n’est pas grave. However, it’s common in spoken French to drop the word ne.
The three letters are short for J’en peux plus (“I can’t take this anymore”). Like the previous expression, it’s missing the negative word ne.
MDR in French stands for Mort de rire. The phrase literally means “Dead from laughter” but a more appropriate translation is “laughing out loud” or the more text-friendly “LOL”.
RAF stands for rien à faire (nothing to do), which is itself the French abbreviated version for Je n’en ai rien à faire (literally “I’ve got nothing to do from it”). A better translation of the phrase is I don’t care. It’s important to know that RAF can also stand for rien à foutre or Je n’en ai rien à foutre, a more rude phrase to say “I don’t give a fuck”, As such, RAF needs to be used with caution.
French slang abbreviations playing on sounds
While technically not acronyms, the following French abbreviations still use a similar approach by picking up letters from the words they are standing for. The difference is that, rather than selecting the first letter of each word, as in standard acronyms, the letters – often consonants – are chosen because their combined sounds come close to how the phrase is normally pronounced. Let’s study a few examples.
JTM is the short form for Je t’aime. Indeed, the letter M in the French alphabet sounds exactly like the present form aime from the verb aimer (to like or to love). J and T stand for the first letters of the first two words of Je t’aime.
TKT in French texts replaces t’inquiète, which is the truncated version of the more correct phrase Ne t’inquiète pas (don’t worry). In this case, the three consonants represent the main consonants of the phrase – T and Q – leaving out the vowels to the imagination.
LStomB is the abbreviation for Laisse tomber, a very common expression to say “Let it go”. In fact, the phrase even has its own version in French slang – Laisse béton – which was made famous in a classic French song from the late 1970s.
The construction of LStomB is quite intricate. The first two letters L and S replace the first word Laisse, with S having the exact same sound as –aisse. The letters tomB replace the second word tomber. The first syllable tom- remains the same, as its pronunciation can’t really be mimicked with letters. The final letter B shares the same pronunciation as the second syllable -ber.
French text slang using numbers
As in the previous three examples, this type of French text slang uses numbers to reproduce the sound of the words that are being abbreviated.
Koi29 stands for the phrase Quoi de neuf ? (“What’s new?” or “What’s up?”). As you may have guessed, Koi replaces the first word Quoi. The number 2 (or deux in French) stands for the preposition de as the two words have a very similar pronunciation. Finally, the number 9 replaces the word neuf, which can both mean “new” and “nine” in French.
A12C4 is the short form for À un de ces quatre (“See you one of these days”), a very common phrase when saying goodbye in French. Translated literally, the phrase means “To one of these four”. So without surprise, the numbers 1 and 4 replace the words un (“one”) and quatre (“four”) in the phrase. As in the previous example, the number 2 replaces the preposition de. Finally, the letter A stands for the preposition À and the letter C for ces, which is close in sound.
Bi1to is the abbreviation for bientôt (“soon”). In this example, only some of the letters in the word are replaced, with the number 1 standing for the letters -en in bientôt. This is because, when preceded by the vowel i, -en is pronounced in exactly the same way as un (“one”). For simplicity, the accent on the vowel o is also dropped, as is the final t which is silent in bientôt.
Cut a long story short using French text slang
There are many more French slang abbreviations you can learn, but these ten examples give you a good overview — and a peek behind the scenes at the tricks used to create them. We hope now you find it easier to decode any text slang abbreviations you encounter in the future.
Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries, such as hospitality and travel, as well as health and well-being. Settled down in London since the end of her university years, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.