La Classe Française – Fun Words With French Friends!

Tu? Vous? Comme ci, comme ça!

With school back in session, it’s time to jump-start your French vocabulary. Impress your Francophile friends with these ten new French words!

Pour yourself a glass of citron pressé, light up a Gauloise and enjoy your complimentary French lesson courtesy of moi, Léonore, Marine and Polly.

Alors, on commence!

Attachant: An adjective meaning charming, likeable and appealing. Attachant is used to describe someone who moves, captivates and arouses an emotional attachment. One of Léonore’s favorite words!

Amuse-bouche: An amuse-bouche is a small hors d’oeuvre-esque dish served to guests mid-meal. A complimentary tidbit from the chef, an amuse-bouche reflects the chef’s culinary flair. This tasty treat preps the palate for the plat principal.

Flâneur: A distinctly Parisian concept, the flâneur, meaning “stroller” or “lounger,” is a wandering observer of city life. Originating in 19th century literature, the flâneur was traditionally a man of leisure, an urban wanderer, an aficionado of the boulevards. Honoré de Balzac described flânerie as “the gastronomy of the eye.”

Gîte: A vacation cottage available for rent, a gîte is generally owned by locals living nearby. The owners are available for assistance, advice and local tidbits. Gîtes are normally farmers’ cottages or barns customized for families with children, as well cyclists, fisherman and equestrians. 

Gourmand: A gourmand refers to someone who loves to eat and drink, quite possibly in excess. While the Medieval meaning more closely resembled gluttony, today the term has lost its severity. When presented with a delectable French meal, however, how can one not be a gourmand?

L’art de vivre: Literally translated as “the art of living,” this enchanting expression conjures the richness of daily life, especially appreciated in the south of France. The splendor of a sunset, a meal savored en plein air, or a glass of local wine enjoyed with family and friends. L’art de vivre is quintessentially français.

Panache: Flamboyance in style and action, panache originally referred to a gaudy, feathered plume worn on a hat or helmet. Cyrano de Bergerac was famous for his panache, as the play ends with his final words “My panache,” thus introducing the word into the English language.

Parvenu: A person of low social status who quickly acquires wealth, power or celebrity. A more common expression, nouveau riche, is also of French origin. A parvenu would not be accepted by vieux riche.

Soupçon: While a gourmand may think “soupçon” originated from a dash of salt in the boeuf bourguignon, the word in fact has to do with suspicion. Today, the word carries the dual meaning: a drop, hint or dash of something (in food) as well as meaning a sneaking suspicion of something or someone dubious.

Va-et-vient: Back and forth, to and fro. This can be applied to many different usages. Examples include:

  • Porte à va-et-vient = Swing door
  • Interrupter va-et-vient = Two way switch
  • Cycle de va-et-vient = Cycle to and fro
  • Mouvement de va-et-vient = In and out movement

Sans examen…this time!


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