Common Words? French and English Cognates


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Bonjour tout le monde !

As you no doubt are aware, from perhaps your studies in French or in general, there are many words common to both English and French. En effet, il y a environ 17,000 words identical to both languages. Donc, ceci est l’une des choses qui sont très pratique lorsque vous apprenez le français ! (is one of the most convenient things about learning French!) Although they are spelled the same or at least similar they are not pronounced the same (use English and French phonology). These words are hence true or semi-true cognates. Examples include: force, competition, college, art, department (departement) and machine.

You can find the full list of all 17,000 words online if you search. However I imagine you can already think of some. Pouvez-vous inscrire cinq cognats dans l’espace ci-dessous ?

1.____________________

2.____________________

3.____________________

4.____________________

5.____________________

As you can see by the graph English has been derived from French as well Latin and Germanic languages.

As a fluent English speaker you will already known many French words, thanks to over 17,000 cognates that exist. Moreover French sayings exist in English that you will already be aware of and ergo will make learning French that much easier.

For example, par exemple, please see some below:

Voilà (there)

E.g.: Voilà, I’ve just finished my beautiful painting.

Bon appetit ! (Enjoy your meal)

E.g.: Bon appetit everybody, this barbecue looks fantastic.

Note Cognates: Barbeque (French) = Barbecue (English) and Fantastique (French) = Fantastic (English)

Chic (fashionable)

E.g.: I really like your new blazer, it’s very chic!

À la mode (in fashion)

E.g.: Emilie, that new blazer you have is quite à la mode. I saw it in Vogue.

Art déco (decorative art/ style)

E.g.: The style of furniture in the old house was remarkably art déco.

Haute couture (high fashion)

E.g.: The fashion at the launch included haute couture designs.

Au pair (foreigner as a nanny)

E.g.: When she went to France she worked as an au pair for a family in Paris.

Bureau (Office)

E.g.: I have to exchange some currency at the bureau de change.

Je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what)

E.g.: The singer that won the division had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Laissez-faire (let make)

E.g.: (Free) Market economies have a laissez-faire approach to the market where there is little government intervention.

Ménage à trois (household of three)

E.g.: They were in a ménage à trois.

Petit four (small dessert)

E.g.: For the afternoon tea party my mother is bringing some petit fours.

Savoir-faire (know how, social grace)

E.g.: There is a certain amount of savoir-faire that people should bring with them to the workplace.

Soupe du jour (soup of the day)

E.g.: Today’s soupe du jour special is pumpkin soup.

Note cognate: Special (English) = Spécial (French)

Vive la difference (long live the difference)

E.g.: We just don’t seem to get along, oh well, vive la difference.

Hors d’oeuvres (appetisers)

E.g.: Tonight at the party I will be serving hors d’oeuvres.

Femme fatale (attractive woman)

E.g.: The woman was wearing an amazing red dress. She was a femme fatale.

En route (on the way)

E.g.: We will stop off for

Fait accompli (done deal, irreversible action)

E.g.: The press are acting as if the result of tomorrow’s election is a fait accompli but do you really think it has been decided?

Crème de la crème (best of the best)

E.g.: The man said that his risotto was the crème de la crème in all of the county.

Déjà vu (feeling of having experienced something before)

E.g.: When I was speaking with him at dinner for the first time, it felt very déjà vu.

À propos (regarding, concerning)

E.g.: The meeting yesterday was à propos to the relocation.

Au contrair (on the contrary)

E.g.: I think the theatre production was a one night show.  Au contrair, it is running for two weeks.

Homage (French spell hommage; respect, admiration)

E.g.: She wished to pay homage to one of her greatest inspirations when she went to New York City.

Maitre d’ (in French spell Maitre d’hotel meaning head waiter)

E.g.: When I arrived at the hotel I was looking for the Maitre d’.

Negligee (in French spell Négligée; a robe or dressing gown)

E.g.: When looking in the women’s lingerie section of the department store I came across several negligee’s on sale.

Note cognates: Lingerie (French) = Lingerie (English) and Département (French) = Department (English)

Pièce de résistance (the best)

E.g.: The pièce de résistance is a coated in silver.

Words that are franglais…

Some English words have recently made an unwanted entrance into the French language. These are regarded as imports. Please read through all of the following examples below: S’il vous plaît lisez les suivantes:

le week-end (the weekend or in Quebequois la fin de semaine)

Note: la fin de semaine in France refers to Thursday or Friday, end of the work week not the weekend.

Also many English rooted words are created in French by adding -ing. Such as the following:

le phoneing (telemarketing)

le shampooing (to shampoo one’s hair)

un camping (a campsite)

un parking (a car park, or in Quebequois un stationnement)

un relooking (a makeover)

le jogging or le footing (jogging)

or also see

un rugbyman (a rugby player)

un talkie-walkie (a two hand held radio, note word order)

un e-mail (email) without English it is un message électronique = mél

box (equals to set top box after being associated with internet and service providers across France) e.g. Live-box, neuf-box, alice-box

un hot dog (hot dog or in Quebequois un chien chaud)

Alors, you will now know much more about French and English words! Be sure to keep an eye out for other English and French cognates. I hope this gives you confidence to approach French with vigour.

Don’t be afraid to explore more through French reading and listening. After all, it is unlikely you will get too lost, thanks to the existence of cognates!

  • Click here to read about Societal Issues in France / Cliquez ici et lisez le sujets à propos de la société en France sur Le Monde–> http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/
  • Click here to watch the French News on France 2 / Cliquez ici et regardez le journal de 20hr sur France 2  –> http://jt.france2.fr/ 

Bon courage et merci beaucoup mes amis !

4 thoughts on “Common Words? French and English Cognates

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