25 French insults you probably shouldn’t use | With audio

The French are generally very polite and prefer privacy to emotional outbursts and displays, but they are human beings, after all. And so, there’s a wide range of insults in French.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to use them or say them to anyone, but it’s important to recognize French insults, since you’re likely to come upon them when you read, watch, or listen to things in French.

Let’s look at some of the most common French insults, as well as a few that I personally think are pretty great.

25 French insults

A partially sliced dry sausage on a slate stone that is being used as a plate. A sprig of herbs is beside it.

The French insults on our list run the gamut from relatively mild, to NSFW. Read on to learn more about each one, including just how bad it is!

andouille – moron (literally “sausage”). The literal meaning of this insult makes it one of my favorite. I love thinking about walking around calling people “Sausage!” That said, I have had someone meanly say this to me once, and it still stings…. Note that since we’re talking about an actual physical object, andouille stays feminine regardless of whether a man or woman is being insulted. Ex: Quelle andouille ! (What a moron!)

un balai de chiotte – a toilet brush. When researching this article, I came upon this creative way to insult someone, and it cracked me up, so I had to include it here! That said, it’s not a very common French insult. But it should be! Note that since we’re talking about an actual physical object, balai de chiotte stays masculine regardless of whether a man or woman is being insulted. Ex: Tais-toi, balai de chiotte ! (Shut up, toilet brush!)  

un branleur – wanker. The French verb branler means “to shake” but by extension, it’s also a vulgar term for masturbating. There is a feminine form of branleur, branleuse, but it’s much more common for this insult to be used for a male and in the masculine form. Ex: Il se lève à midi, ne fout rien de sa vie, et insulte tout le monde. C’est un branleur, quoi. (He gets up at noon, does nothing with his life, and insults everyone. He’s a wanker.)

casse-toi – Get lost/Piss off/Bugger off/Sod off! – As you can see, Casse-toi has some slightly different registers depending on the context and speaker, but it’s always rude. Ex: T’as entendu? Un gars a embêté le Président Sarkozy et le President a répondu Casse-toi alors, pauv’ con ! (Did you hear? A guy bothered President Sarkozy and the President told him, “Then piss off, idiot!”).

If you want to tell multiple people to sod off, you’ll have to change the pronoun and conjugation: Cassez-vous !

con/conne – idiot/stupid. As I’ve covered before, this French insult is very common and very versatile…but also pretty rude. That said, there are a few exceptions, especially when it’s not directly addressed to someone. C’est pas con, for instance, is a slightly vulgar way to say “That’s pretty smart!”. But when you say Quel con (What an idiot), that’s a lot meaner.

un connard/une connasse – (fucking) asshole/fuckwit/stupid bitch (in feminine form). As you might have guessed, this French insult is derived from the previous one on our list, con/conne. But it’s harder-hitting, especially connasse, -asse being a very derogatory and somewhat vulgar suffix.  

French actress Camille Cottin’s breakthrough role was as “La Connasse”, a woman who says what she thinks on a candid camera show that was featured on French channel Canal +. You can watch many of these videos on YouTube (here’s my personal favorite). Unfortunately, the subtitles for these are auto-generated and don’t make a lot of sense, so you’ll have to watch them without the subtitles.

couillon/couillonne – literally “ball” (male testicle), this word is a common way to call someone stupid. It can be used as a noun or an adjective. While it’s certainly vulgar and not nice, there’s something sort of silly about it that keeps it from veering into totally agressive territory. Ex: Arrête de parler, couillon! (Shut up, stupid!)

crétin/crétine – cretin, idiot, stupid. As in English, this insult isn’t obscene, but it still packs a punch. Fun fact: Ubisoft’s characters The Rabbids, who appear in a number of video games and cartoons, are known as Les Lapins Crétins in French. This word can be a noun or an adjective. Ex: Son frère est vraiment un crétin. OR Son frère est vraiment crétin. 

crotte de chèvre – a goat turd. This is the favorite insult of my eight-year-old son and his classmates, who use it when taunting their playground enemies.

ducon – dickhead. Ducon is one of the rare French insults that is usually said directly to the person, unembellished by other words or phrases. The word seems to have been constructed with that in mind; It’s a portmanteau of the prefix de/du, which is often seen in titles of nobility or last names (for instance, de Maupassant, du Lac, Dupont, Dubois) plus the insult con (idiot).

There is apparently a feminine form, duconne, but ducon is an insult mostly used for men.  Ex: Je me fous de ce que tu penses, ducon ! (I don’t give a fuck about what you think, dickhead!).

enculé(e) – literally, “person who is fucked in the ass”, this insult is the rough equivalent of “motherfucker” or “fucker”. Like its English counterparts it’s one of the most vulgar French insults but also one of the most common. Hopefully you’ll never be called an enculé(e), but you will likely hear it in a French TV show or movie, or read it in a French novel or online, at the very least.

enfoiré(e)– asshole/bastard. This is a very common French insult. If you’re a fan of French pop culture, you may have heard this word in a different way: Every year, a group of French musicians and actors sing a hit song to raise money for Les Restos du Cœur  food bank. The group’s members may change, but it’s always referred to as Les Enfoirés.

The name comes from founder Coluche, a comedian known for fighting for the poor and the working class. When he had the idea, he asked singers and celebrities to participate for free, and many refused, prompting Coluche to say Vous êtes vraiment une bande d’enfoirés. (You’re a real bunch of assholes.) . Although this may be just a legend, the name has stuck, and it’s the only context in which enfoiré isn’t used as an insult.

(un/une) faux-cul – a fake or phony person. In informal speech, you’ll also see faux-cul used as an adjective to mean “phony”. This may be a bigger insult in French than in English, since French culture values sincerity.

You may have noticed that the word is made up of “false” and “arse”. That’s because un faux-cul was originally a common term for “bustle” – that is, the padding fashionable women added to the backs of their dresses in periods of the late 1800’s. Despite its old-fashioned origin, faux-cul is a very common insult in present-day France.

Examples: Elle, je ne l’aime pas. C’est une faux-cul. (Her, I don’t like. She’s a phony.) /Tu ne peux pas lui dire ça, ça fait faux-cul. (You can’t tell him that, it sounds phony.)

un fils de pute – son of a bitch. A classic and easily translated insult. But note that, unlike in English, this word isn’t used as a standalone exclamation of rage or frustration – it always has to be directed towards someone. Ex: Son ex est un vrai fils de pute. (Her ex is a real son of a bitch.)/Casse-toi, fils de pute ! (Fuck off, you son of a bitch!)

(un/une imbécile) –  imbecile. An easy French insult for English speakers, since they mean the same thing and have the same general level of formality – that is, both are slightly old-fashioned and formal, but still pack a punch. If you use imbécile, just make sure you pronounce it the French way! Ex: Imbécile ! Tu as cassé notre robot-tueur ! (Imbecile! You broke our killer robot!)

ne pas avoir la lumière à tous les étages – literally, “to not have the lights on on every floor” – meaning, to be one card short of a full deck (in other words, stupid). 

There are multiple expressions like this in both French and English. In French, this one just happens to be my personal favorite, but you can look at this list, for instance, for some other examples.  Ex: Il est beau mais il n’a pas la lumière à tous les étages. (He’s handsome but he he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.)

nouille – idiot (but yes, literally “noodle”). Note that nouille can also be a double entendre for “penis”, but the context will make it very clear what meaning they intend. Quelle nouille!  (“What an idiot!”)

nul/nulle – This word is usually used as an adjective, to mean “bad at”, but in a slightly informal or vulgar way. It’s the rough equivalent of “to suck at/to be crap at something”. But it can also sometimes be used as a noun; un nul/une nulle is a loser or a dummy.  Ex: Ne me le demande pas – je suis nulle en maths. (Don’t ask me – I suck in math.)/ Allez vous faire voir, bande de nuls ! (Get lost, losers!).

Les Nuls is a famous French comedy group from the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. Many of their characters and sketches are iconic pop culture references in France…at least for the generation who watched them in their prime. You can watch many of their sketches, including compilations of their famous fake commercials, on YouTube. Bonus: Many of these sketches include other French insults on our list, so you can hear them in action.

relou – annoying, obnoxious/an annoying or obnoxious person. This word can be used as either a noun (un/une relou) or an adjective. Because it’s in verlan, a type of French slang that reverses syllables of words, it never changes to agree with the gender of the subject (although it can be pluralized).

With that in mind, you might have reversed the syllables and discovered the word that inspired relou: lourd (heavy). We all know that an annoying person can be a weight that makes everyone’s good mood plummet.

This French insult is very popular, especially among younger generations. I often hear it used to refer to men who just don’t know when to take “no” for an answer or who are creepy, but it can just someone or something that’s obnoxious. Examples: Ce mec est trop relou ! (This guy is so obnoxious/won’t take a hint.)/Elle va encore nous raconter toute l’histoire de sa vie, c’est relou. (She’s going to tell us her life story again, it’s so annoying.)

sac à merde – a sack of shit. This insult isn’t as common as the others on this list, but it’s worth noting since many French people, including several I know, seem to find it funny as well as effective (not that they’ve ever said it to me!). Ex: Tais-toi, sac à merde! (Shut up, sack of shit!)

salaud – bastard/son of a bitch. Note that this word only exists for masculin subjects. Ex: – Il a trompé sa femme, le salaud. (This son of a bitch cheated on his wife.)

sale gosse – literally, “dirty child”, this means “you little brat.” Obviously not a nice thing to say to a child. Note that the word gosse can be masculine or feminine, depending on the subject. Ex: Simon était un sale gosse. (Simon was a little brat.)

salope -slut/bitch. Like its English-language equivalents, this can be used as anything from an insult between women, to a misogynistic way to refer to women. Ex: Mais quelle salope ! (God, what a bitch!)

va te faire foutre/Va te faire voir – The obscene way and the nicer way to say the same thing. Va te faire foutre is “Fuck off” or “Get fucked”, while Va te faire voir is “Get lost.”  “Go fuck yourself” is va te faire enculer.

Note that while these phrases are mostly used with the informal, singular “you” form, tu, they could be used to refer to a group or possibly in some very specific context where the two people refer to each other with the formal vous. In one of these cases, the phrases have to change conjugation and pronouns: Allez vous faire foutre. Allez vous faire voir.

Where can I find more French insults?

A white goat stands proudly on high, rocky ground that is probably a mountain top. There are mountains in the background.

As in many other languages, there isn’t really a limit to insulting words and phrases in French, since anyone can make one up – and maybe it will even catch on. Add to this the fact that French people rarely censor TV, movies, or print material, and you’ll find that it’s quite easy to discover French insults in lots of places – just hopefully none that are directed at you!

A good place to start might be checking out our list of French swear words. And this list from France Inter includes some rather creative French insults that could inspire and intrigue you.

Even if you don’t actively search for them, though, it’s highly likely you’ll end up picking up at least a few French insults, simply by listening to, watching, and reading things in French.

How to insult someone in French

Now you have some choice French insult vocabulary…but how to use it?  Hopefully, you won’t go around insulting people in French (or in any language, for that matter), but in case of a rare situation when it’s necessary, you probably want to be prepared.

There are always exceptions, especially when it comes to spoken, informal language, but as you may have noticed from the examples in our list or in the videos I’ve linked to, French people tend to exclaim about a person being a thing, rather than directly calling them that.

So it’s often more common to hear Quel/Quelle followed by the insult, rather than a French person just saying the insult to the person. Ex: Hé! J’allais me garer là ! Non, mais quel con ! Hey, I was going to park there! What an asshole!

Interestingly, when insulting one’s self, Quel/Quelle is also often used. For instance, a person might make a mistake, roll their eyes, and say Quelle andouille ! or Quel con ! to mean  “I’m such a dummy”“What an idiot I am!”

When French people do address people directly with an insult, they also often add words around it or even make it into its own phrase. For instance, Espèce de….  This phrase is the rough equivalent to “What a (fucking)”. Ex: Espèce de branleur. (What a wanker.). For groups, bande de ((What a) bunch of ___) is also very common. Ex: Bande de cons. (What a bunch of idiots.)

The French tend to find directly addressing someone with an insult and nothing else around it a sort of aggressive act. There are exceptions to this, but generally speaking, it’s a bit less harsh (although still not nice!) to say something like Mais quelle connasse ! (What a bitch!) instead of Connasse ! (Bitch!)

The best way to get to know how to use French insults is to listen to and read contemporary French. Fortunately, the French aren’t very into censoring obscenities, so it’s easy to hear all sorts of these even if you’re watching something as seemingly “clean” as a mainstream French TV show.

Should I use French insults?

The main purpose of this list is to help you get familiar with French insults, both obscene and otherwise, since you will encounter them in entertainment and everyday life — even in what might seem like respectable places.

That said, while the French rarely censor swear words, they are overall a very polite culture. Insults are nothing to joke about, and French people aren’t usually as freewheeling with them as some of us might be in English. Like most things in French, the rule with insults is usually: only say it if you mean it.

And before you say it, of course, consider the consequences. Ne sois pas con(ne) ! (Don’t be stupid!)

Do you have a favorite French insult? Feel free to share it in the comments!

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Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.