French Slang Words To Make You Sound Like a Local

| © Soma / Alamy Stock Photo
Hattie Ditton

Even people who have studied French for years occasionally suffer the embarrassment of being responded to in English by French people who are quick to pick up their accent. If you want to really fit in, it is necessary to learn French argot (slang),of which there is plenty!

Obsessed with culture and language? Our small-group trips are designed to give you an authentic, immersive experience wherever you go.

Chanmé/e

Many modern French slang words come from other words having been inverted. This rings true here with chanmé, which came from méchant, meaning badly behaved or ‘wicked’ and ordinarily used to describe a child. You will hear Parisians using it to mean ‘wicked’ in the modernised, positive sense of the word. This is an easy one to slip into conversation without sounding too forced.

«Le concert d’hier soir, c’était chanmé!»

“The concert last night was wicked!”

Chiant/e

This can be used in numerous ways, but it certainly is not a pleasant word. It is basically used to describe anything that is a pain in the ass, be that a person or a situation.

«Le restaurant est fermé le lundi ? Mais c’est chiant ca!»

“The restaurant is closed on Mondays!? How annoying!”

Bouffer

This verb can be used to mean ‘to eat’, but more in the sense of ‘to scarf’. With all the culinary delights of France, this word is sure to be useful! (‘La bouffe’ can also be used as a noun to mean ‘food’.)

«J’ai bouffé au moins 10 macarons – ils étaient super bons et j’avais très faim!»

“I ate at least 10 macarons – they were delicious and I was starving!”

Oklm

This phonetic acronym of the phrase au calme was made popular by French rapper Booba with his 2014 single. It is used by young people to describe something that is ‘cool’ or ‘chilled’, in the ‘hip’ sense of the word. If you start following French people on Instagram, you will start to see it crop up more and more in captions:

«Une belle balade ce soir #oklm»

“A nice stroll this evening #chilled”

Laisse tomber

The French language history shows that this expression roughly translates to ‘let it go’, or ‘just forget it’. It is not a particularly aggressive phrase and is used in unimportant situations. For example, if you were struggling to understand someone and they had already repeated themselves numerous times, they may eventually tell you to laisse tomber.

«Laisse tomber, c’est pas grave!»

“Just forget it, it doesn’t matter!”

Avoir le seum

This is a way to express that you are unhappy about something or, perhaps more accurately, ‘pissed’ about something. This is true Parisian slang, and you will definitely impress people by dropping this into conversation. Most people of older generations will not have even heard of this expression.

«J’ai trop le seum, parce que mon équipe de foot a perdu le match hier soir.»

“I’m really pissed because my football team lost the game last night.”

Mec

Translates to ‘guy’ in a general sense, as a more casual way of describing a man, but is also commonly used to describe a boyfriend.

«Il est très agréable, ce mec — tu trouves?»

“He’s a really nice guy, don’t you think?”

Une clope

The French are known for being a nation of smokers, so it likely that at some point during your stay, you may be asked if you have a spare clope, which is the slang word for a cigarette. The equivalent for us might be ‘a smoke’ or ‘a cig’.

«Je peux te taxer une clope, s’il te plait?»

“Could I pinch a smoke from you, please?”

Mytho

Another insult that you may hear thrown about more often than you might think, mytho is an abbreviation of mythomana, literally meaning ‘a compulsive liar’, commonly used to describe someone who has been known to exaggerate the truth, often with the intent to make himself sound better.

«Ne l’écoute pas, il raconte des histoires. Il est gros mytho.»

“Don’t listen to him — he just makes stuff up. He’s a complete liar!”

Wesh

Wesh, or wech, is a slang greeting, used by most young people in an ironic way. It comes from the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris and originally came from rappers, who used the term to greet their ‘crew’. If you say this to a group of French people, you may well be laughed at, but it is certainly usable in texts or Facebook messages, in the same way we use ‘yo’.

«Wesh! Ça va?»

“Yo! How’s it going?”

Frais/fraîche

This is used exactly the same was as it is in English. Literally, frais means ‘fresh’ and will be used to describe food, but the younger generation also uses it to describe things that they deem ‘cool’. Certain people you will hear using it completely seriously, while others now use it with a little more irony, just like in English.

«Frérot, tu as des baskets fraiches!»

“Bro, those are some fresh sneakers you got on there!”

Kiffer

Among the beautiful French words is the word “kiffer” – a great, easy verb to throw into everyday conversation and a good way to pay someone a compliment. Kiffer is another way of expressing that you like something, in a much less formal way. Using this would be like saying that you ‘dig’ something. Occasionally replacing aimer with kiffer will be sure to make you sound like a local among young people.

«Je kiffe ton style.»

“I dig your style.”

Frérot

As mentioned in a previous example, frérot literally means ‘little brother’, but it is used as we would use ‘bro’ and not restricted to biological brothers. It is usually used affectionately among friends, but can be heard between ‘cool young men’ on the street. You may consider using with a hint of irony, particularly as a non-native French speaker!

«Yo, frérot, quoi de neuf?»

“Yo, bro, what’s going down?”

Bosser

This is an informal version of the verb ‘to work’, i.e. travailler. Of course, you would not use it in conversation with your boss, but certainly among friends; it makes your French sound very authentic.

«Tu es toujours étudiant, ou tu bosses?»

“Are you still a student, or do you work?”

Meuf

This is a casual word for a woman, most similar to the English ‘chick’ and used in the same way. It is neither complimentary nor particularly insulting when used on its own. Although some may find it slightly derogatory when used as ma meuf (my chick), there are others who would think nothing of it, so you can make your own mind up on this.

«Il n’arrete pas de parler de cette meuf.»

“He won’t stop going on about that chick.”

Bolos/boloss/bolosse

This is an insult used particularly (but not exclusively) against gullible or naive people. It could also be used against someone who is generally unappealing or ugly. Put simply, not something you would hope to hear said about yourself.

«Ton oncle est boloss quoi!»

“Is your uncle gullible or what?”

Grave

You probably will have learned the word grave to mean ‘grave’ or ‘serious’, which is of course correct. However, young people in France have also taken to using it as an adverb, like we do in English to say that something is ‘seriously’ good or ‘crazy’ fast.

«Cet gateau que tu as fait était grave bon!»

“That cake you made was crazy good!”

Pas mal de

While this is not a French slang, strictly speaking, it is a colloquial phrase that you will hear time and time again, and it makes no sense when translated literally, so it is important to understand that it means ‘lots of’. You will find that it is easy to use once you get used to it.

«Il y a pas mal de bars dans le 19eme arrondissement.»

“There are plenty of bars in the 19th arrondissement.”

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? We’ve partnered with Rosetta Stone, a language learning provider. Find out more.

Browse our full collection of culturally immersive trips – where will you go first?

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article