French expressions in English

Wiki has an interesting page on French expressions in English.

Of course I knew there were quite a few, but I was surprised just how many I was familiar with.

How many did you know? Did they miss any that you know? What about “reservoir”?

… if they’re going to include any word that comes from French (such as baguette) they’ll have to include quite a few hundred more.

“words” yes, many hundreds, I found the “expressions” to be interesting.

Actually tens of thousands. The article notes that a full 45% of English words derive from French, but says “This article, on the other hand, covers French words and phrases that have entered the English lexicon without ever losing their character as Gallicisms: they remain unmistakably “French” to an English speaker.” Obviously there is a certain amount of subjectivity in deciding what words fit that description.

I just skimmed the list, but I’d be surprised if most American English speakers consider “gaffe” to be unmistakably French. Is it seen that way in Britain?

I could try to name some, but je ne sais quoi.

entrepreneur :stuck_out_tongue: (no, we’re not planning on letting y’all live that one down)

As a raconteur and general bon vivant who’s personally come vis-a-vis avec torsades de pointes, I’m not surprised at all.

Zut alors!

Linking to Wiki. How gauche. :rolleyes:


There were quite a few that I have never heard used in English and some few (I would have included reservoir had it been on the list) that have been fully adopted as English words.

In Quebec, there are a number of French words and phrases that are regularly used in English, but are limited to Quebec. Example: subvention for research grant.

Wow, you’ve taught me a new expression in my mother tongue, thanks !

Never even considered the matter. So: no.


…and some words that I do know have extremely specific uses, and not even in the original sense. (I was aching to pull them up on cul-de-sac, but the article properly notes that the French word for this is* voie sans issue*).

I was actually stopped in my tracks by the first word. “à gogo” is (to the best of my knowledge) almost never used in English except in gogo dancer and Whisky-a-gogo. So it’s a very strange inclusion.

My feeling is that a lot of this list comes from the* Just Thought Of Another!* school of wiki editing


We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” – James Nicoll

It’s fun to twist history and pronounce some of these either too French or not French enough.

Hors d’oeuvres is a good example - either going full-on French, or fully anglicizing it to “Horse doovers”. :slight_smile: