Are you familiar with French argot? Chances are, if you’ve ever watched or read something in French, the answer is probably “yes”.
Argot is slang or informal language, and it’s been around in some form or another for centuries. While some common French argot words are still a bit new and edgy, many others are a part of the average French person’s everyday vocabulary.
There are several types of French slang and colloquialisms, including text and internet slang and verlan, slang that is created by flipping the order of syllables in a word. The third major type, argot, is a melting pot of new and very old informal words and expressions. Although they’re informal and sometimes even rude or vulgar, it’s hard to avoid these words if you love French culture and entertainment.
Let’s take a look at French argot, including the 75 French slang words and phrases you need to know!
75 French slang words you need to know
There are hundreds of French argot words. But here is a list of the most common.
Some of these words are relatively new, some are rude or obscene, and some have become such an intrinsic part of everyday French that it can be hard to think of them as informal or argot. All of them are good to at least recognize, since you’re more than likely to come across them the more you read and listen to French.
You’ll probably notice that many of these have other meanings when they’re not being used in an informal, argot sense. For instance, un canard usually means a duck, but in argot, it’s a newspaper. Usually, tone and context will help you determine which meaning of the word is being used.
une baffe – a smack/a hit Ex: Attention, tu vas prendre une baffe ! (Be careful, you’re going to get a smack!)
une bagnole – a car
balaise – depending on the context: to be strong, impressive, and/or difficult. This word can be used to describe a person or a thing. Ex: Ce mec est balaise. (This guy is really strong.)
une baraque – a house. A related word, baraqué(e), is a way to describe someone who’s well-built/muscly. Ex: C’est la baraque du type baraqué qu’on a vu hier. (That’s the house where the built guy we saw yesterday lives.)
une boîte – a business/company. This word normally means “box” or “tin/can”, so maybe it says something that it’s also used to describe a place where you work? Note that, while informal, this word is often used by people when talking about their work, including when communicating with their colleagues. Ex: Nous avons monté une boite ensemble. (We started a business together.)
bol (avoir du bol/Pas de bol) – luck. avoir du bol is a common expression that means “to be lucky”, in a specific situation, not necessarily all the time. Pas de bol is another expression you might come across – it means “No luck” or “That was unlucky.” Ex: Tu as perdu un billet de cent euros dans le Métro ? C’est pas de bol ! Mais tu l’as retrouve ensuite ? Tu as eu du bol !
la bouffe – food. Its verb version, bouffer means “to eat” or “to stuff oneself”. Weirdly enough, using these words in polite company may produce a reaction similar to spouting out an obscenity. They’re considered vulgar – maybe because they make the sacred French act of savoring a meal a bit less so? Ex: Qu’est ce qu’on a bien bouffé hier soir! (What a great meal we had last night!/We really stuffed our faces last night!)
le/du boulot – work. This can mean your job or work to do. Like some other words on this list, boulot is informal but often used among colleagues to talk about their work. The expression Métro, boulot, dodo is a common phrase that describes a boring routine (Take the Metro, go to work, go to sleep). Ex: Je vais au boulot. (I’m leaving for work.)/J’ai trop de boulot. (I have too much work to do.)
bosser – to work. Another work-related slang word. Like the others on this list, bosser is informal but is often used among colleagues. It can also mean “to work” in a general sense, as in to make an effort at something. In this case, it’s more informal. Ex: Vous avez bien bossé, les gars ! (You did good work, guys!)
un canard – newspaper. This word is slang, but it’s been in the French language for so long that it’s a bit less informal and a lot more well-known than many of the other terms on our list. Le Canard Enchainé, a famous satirical French newspaper, was founded in 1915!
canon – sexy, gorgeous. This word comes from the idea of a “canon of beauty”, and so it’s never modified to match the subject’s gender or number. While I’ve heard and seen canon used most commonly as an adjective, it may also be used as a noun. In that case, it’s always un canon, regardless of the gender of the person being talked about. Ex: Isabelle est canon. (Isabelle is gorgeous.)
chialer – to cry, usually with the connotation of it being annoying. Chialer can run the gamut from meaning “to cry” to “to bawl”, but it’s pretty much always used in a negative sense. Ex: Arrête de chialer ! (Stop your blubbering!)
le chiotte/les chiottes – crapper. Both of these words are slang ways to say “toilet” or “WC” in French. The tone is slightly vulgar, since they’re derived from the verb chier (to shit), so the best translation is “crapper” or “john”.
The phrase des goûts de chiottes (sometimes written goûts de chiotte, since both words are pronounced the same way) is a very common expression that means “shit taste” – taste here being “opinions,” not the sense. Note: Rather annoyingly, chiotte is masculine but chiottes is feminine. Ex: Il n’est pas là, il est au chiotte. (He’s not there, he’s in the crapper.)/C’est pas la peine de demander son avis – elle des goûts de chiottes. (There’s no point asking her opinion – she has shit taste.)
cinglé(e) -crazy, loony, nutty. Note that this word can also be used as a noun – un cinglé/une cinglée is a crazy person, either literally (although this is not a politically correct term) or figuratively.
classe – classy, stylish. This is used as an adjective, but it can also be a standalone noun, in the expression “La classe !” (Classy/Cool) Ex: Sa maison est super classe. (His house is so classy.)
un costard – a suit. The phrase costard cravate (suit-and-tie) is very common in everyday informal language, and can be used to mean “a faceless employee of a company”, the way we might use “suit” in English.
crade/crado/cracra/cradingue – filthy. By extension, this word can sometimes mean “dirty” in the sense of a dirty joke. Cracra tends to be a little bit on the funny side, since it mimics children’s speech. Regardless, no one wants to be in a place that’s cracra. Ex: Elle est canon et elle s’habille nickel mais son appart’ est crado. She’s gorgeous and dresses impeccably, but her apartment is filthy.)
se casser – to leave/split. “Split” is a great translation for this term, since ‘se casser’ literally means “to break (oneself).” As with “split”, se casser can seem rude and abrupt. It can also signify making a quick getaway. Ex: Il s’est cassé avant que les flics n’arrivent. (He split before the cops arrived.)
avoir la dalle – to be hungry/starving (in an exaggerated sense). Although there’s no confirmed etymology for this expression, une dalle is a slab, so maybe it comes from the idea that you’re seeing an empty table or plat before you, when you want to see food? Ex: J’ai la dalle ! Quand est-ce qu’on mange ? (I’m starving ! When do we eat?)
Que dalle – nothing, zip, zilch. This extremely common expression shows another way the word “dalle” is used in French slang. Ex: Et tu sais ce qu’ils ont trouvé quand ils ont ouvert le coffre ? Que dalle ! (And you know what they found when they opened the trunk? Nothing!)
un daron/une daronne – a father or boss/a mother. This can also refer to an elder that people look up to, including in an ironic way. For instance, in a recent video, popular French YouTuber Norman Thavaud said,<< J’ai 35 ans. Je suis un daron.>> (I’m 35 years old. I’m an elder), since so many young people watch his videos. The equivalent to this sense of these words in English is seeing young internet users refer to “older” ones they admire and look up to as “mom” or “dad”.
Despite their popularity with young people today, daron and daronne date back to the 18th century. They’re still extremely informal and may come off as disrespectful, so never directly address a parent, or, certainly, a boss, this way (unless they have a sense of humor). Ex: Il va chez sa daronne. (He’s going to his mom’s house.)
déconner – to do something wrong, to mess around, to not work. You may have noticed déconner’s root word, con, a French swear word that means “stupid”. Déconner is a bit vulgar, but depending on the context, maybe slightly less so. Sans déconner is a common phrase that means “no joke” or “you’re kidding” or “Really?”. Like these expressions, it can be either a statement or a question. Ex: Tu peux m’aider avec mon ordi? Il déconne grave. (Can you help me with my computer? It’s really messed up.)/<<Je le trouve canon.>> <<Sans déconner ?>> (“I think he’s gorgeous.” “Really?”)
dégueleuasse/dégueu – (fucking) disgusting/so gross. These two words are ones you’ll often hear on French reality TV. They can describe something that is disgusting, but also behavior that seems really wrong or bad. Though they’re common, especially among young people, these words are considered extremely rude. I often have to correct my son (and myself!) to say dégoûtant(e) instead. Ex: Tu as vu comment elle a dragué Philippe devant son jules ? C’est dégueulasse. (Did you see how she hit on Philippe in front of her boyfriend? That’s so gross.
dingue – crazy, bonkers. Dingue has been around for a while, but it’s still a very common word, even for young people to use. It can also be a noun form (un dingue/une dingue), to mean someone who is or is acting crazy. You’ll also often see it coupled with de: de dingue is another adjective form, which often shows even more emphasis than dingue alone. Ex: C’est dingue, ça. (That’s crazy!)
draguer – to hit on/chat up/come on to someone. Dragueur and dragueuse are the noun forms of this word. Se faire draguer means someone hit on you/chatted you up/came on to you. Ex: Tu penses que tu as du bol parce qu’il t’a dragué? Pas de bol, c’est un dragueur. (You think you’re lucky because he hit on you? You’re not lucky; he’s a serial flirt.
un/une flic – a cop. This is probably the most common mainstream French slang word for “cop”. Like “cop”, it may be considered rude to directly refer to a police officer this way – use policier/femme policier instead.
un flingue/flinguer – a gun/to shoot someone. Flinguer is similar in tone to something like “bust a cap” – it can sound serious and threatening when the right person says it, but it can also sound like someone is trying to be cool. Ex: Il a flingué 2 flics. (He shot two cops.)
flipper – to lose one’s head, to get upset/excited, to flip out. This word comes from the English expression “to flip out”. Note that the noun un flipper isn’t related to this slang term – it means “a pinball machine”. Ex: Ma daronne va flipper quand elle voit que j’ai cassé la fenêtre. (My mom’s going to flip when she sees I broke the window.)
un frangin/une frangine – bro/sis – As in English, these words could be used to refer to an actual brother or sister, or someone you just feel close to in a cool way. Note that in plural form, frangines can sometimes refer to testicles; but context should help. Ex: Marco, c’est mon frangin. (Marco’s my bro.)
le fric – dough (money). This is probably the most common way to say “money” in French slang. Its adjective form, friqué(e), means “rich”. Ex: Son boulot est nul mais il gagne beaucoup de fric. (His job sucks but he makes a lot of money.)
frimer – to show off. This is usually tied to showing off a new look or possession, not, for instance, showing off an ability or knowledge. Un frimeur/une frimeuse is the noun form. Ex: Elle a passé toute la soirée à frimer dans ses nouvelles fringues. (She was showing off her new clothes all evening.)
fringues – clothes/duds/togs – Fringues is a feminine plural noun. Ex: Dès que j’aurai du fric, j’irai m’acheter de nouvelles fringues. (As soon as I have some money, I’m going to go by myself some new clothes.)
un gars – a guy/a dude. Un gars, une fille (A Guy, A Girl) is a famous hit French sketch show from the ‘90’s. It featured a couple, played by Jean Dujardin and Alexandra Lamy in short scenes of funny everyday life situations. The show’s mainstream popularity shows, among many things, that gars is a very common French word that isn’t just used by the cool elite. Even though she may not say it, a French granny knows what un gars means just as much as a young person. That said, it’s informal language. Be careful not to pronounce the “s” because then it might be confused with the swear word garce (bitch).
glander – to loaf around and do nothing. Ex: J’ai passé la matinée à glander. (I spent the morning loafing around.)
une gonzesse – chick, girl. Unlike nana, which is another common French argot term for girl or chick, gonzesse usually has a slightly pejorative tone to it. This isn’t always the case, but if you’re using French slang to refer to a woman, it’s probably best to say nana unless you are sure gonzesse won’t bother her or anyone listening. Ex: Il est chez sa gonzesse. (He’s at his chick’s house.)
être gonflé – to have a lot of nerve. In regular, non-slang French, this means that something is swollen, but context should make it easy to determine the meaning. Ex: Il est encore entré dans ma chambre sans frapper. C’est gonflé. (He came into my room without knocking again. – He’s got a lot of nerve.)
un/une gosse – a kid
(un) beau gosse – handsome/well-dressed/a handsome and/or well-dressed guy. This can be part of a sentence or it can be a standalone compliment. Although it’s a compliment, there’s a slightly funny tone to it, a bit like the phrase “handsome fellow” or “handsome devil” in English. If you were being dead serious about a person’s looks in French argot, you’d probably opt for something like canon or nickel. Ex: Tu es beau gosse ! (You’re a handsome guy! OR You look handsome!)
grave – seriously/serious OR nuts. This word is used ALL THE TIME by a lot of French young people. Ex: Je le kiffe grave ! (I’m seriously/so in love with him!)/Tu as demandé à Gisele Bündchen si elle veut sortir avec toi ? Non mais tu es grave ! (You asked Gisele Bündchen out? You’re crazy!)
un jules – a boyfriend. Jules is a very common, slightly playful word. You’ll often encounter it in French women’s magazines, for instance. This expression comes from the common French first name, of course – a bit like the idea of an expression like “Tom, Dick, and Harry”. Note that apparently there are some other argot connotations of jules, but “boyfriend” is overwhelmingly the most common one, so it’s very unlikely there would be any confusion if you used it. Ex: Là voici avec son jules. (There she is with her boyfriend.)
kiffer – to really like someone or something/to enjoy oneself. There’s also a noun form, either written le kif or le kiff, which means pure enjoyment. Ex: Je kiffe cette chanson. (I love this song.)/Tu donnes un bout de fil à mon chat et c’est le kif total. (Give a piece of string to my cat and it’s pure enjoyment.)
louche – sketchy. As in English, this can describe a person, a situation, a place, etc. Ex: Son jules est un mec un peu louche. (Her boyfriend is kind of a sketchy guy.)
mater – to check out. Ex: Il était trop occupé à mater des filles pour m’écouter. (He was too busy checking out girls to listen to me.)
un mec – a guy. This word is just as common as its French slang frangin, un gars, but it’s maybe slightly cooler. You’re more likely to hear it in “street” slang than you would hear gars. It can also be a standalone, very informal way to address someone, like the word “man” in English. Ex: Hé mec, qu’est ce que tu fais ? (Hey man, what are you doing?)
une nana – a chick/girl. Unlike “chick”, nana doesn’t have potentially offensive connotations, at least not for most women. For instance, a popular brand of sanitary napkins is called Nana.
naze – exhausted, wiped out OR stupid/sucks (a person or, more typically, a thing). Ex: Je viens de rentrer du boulot, je suis naze. (I just got home from work, I’m exhausted.)/Ce film est naze. (This movie is stupid/sucks.)
nickel – perfect, flawless. This is the short form of the phrase nickel chrome, which you’ll also sometimes hear, although it’s less common. Ex: C’est nickel. (It’s perfect.) /Il s’est habillé nickel. (He’s impeccably dressed.)
un/une pote – a pal, a mate (friend). Ex: C’est un pote de longue date. (He’s been my mate for a long time.)
réglo – legit, fair, by the rules. This word is derived from règle (rule). It can be used to describe a person or a situation/deal. Ex: T’inquiète, mec, tout est réglo. (Don’t worry, man, everything’s legit.)
se la péter – to get a big head about something, to show off. Ex: Depuis qu’il a acheté cette montre, il se la pète. C’est naze. (Ever since he bought that watch, he’s been showing off. It’s dumb.)
la taule – the slammer, the clink, the nick (prison). Sometimes spelled tôle, this is probably the most common French slang word for “prison”. Ex: Si tu te fais choper, c’est sûr que tu iras en taule. (If you get caught, you will definitely go to prison.)
la thune – money. This word is slightly less common than le fric, but still a very common French slang word. Ex: J’aimerais partir en voyage avec vous, mais je n’ai pas de thune. (I’d like to go on the trip with you guys, but I don’t have any money.)
un/une toubib – a doctor. This word was borrowed from a North African word centuries ago, and became a military slang word before it began to be widely used in everyday spoken French, around the early 20th century. Today, toubib is a very informal word, but just about everyone knows it.
un tuyau – a tip/advice. This could be advice of any kind, or even a tip-off to police. Ex: Elle m’a donné un tuyau sur quels magasins vendent leurs legumes les moins chers. (She gave me a tip on which shops sell their vegetables at the lowest price.)
un type – a guy/bloke. In standard French, type has many other meanings, including “type of”. But from context, you’ll know if the word is being used to refer to an unnamed man. Ex: De l’autre côté de la rue, il y avait un type avec une moustache. (On the other side of the street, there was a guy with a mustache.)/C’est qui, ce type ? (Who’s this guy?)
une vanne – a jibe, a playful insult. Ex: Michel a fait une super vanne sur Louis. J’espère que Louis ne lui en veux pas trop. (Michel made an amazing joke about Louis. I hope Louis isn’t too mad at him.)
la veine – luck. This usually refers to long-term luck, unlike bol, which tends to be short- or one -time luck. Like bol, la veine is usually used with avoir de. Un veinard/une veinarde is someone who’s lucky. Ex: Elle est belle, riche, et drôle – elle a de la veine. (She’s beautiful, rich, and funny – she’s so lucky.)
Wesh – ’sup?/How’s it going?/Yo – This word is from Arabic, not French, but it is incredibly common in contemporary French slang, especially among younger generations who are influenced by or live in the banlieue (inner city). It can be used seriously but is also often used with a slight bit of humor by the current younger generation. Ex: Wesh mon pote? (How’s it going, mate?/ ‘sup, bro?)
Although it’s common, Wesh can be a bit tricky for those of us who don’t use it regularly to understand, since it can be a question, a response, or even just a filler word or a word used to get attention. Think, for instance, of all the ways “yo” can be used in English. You can find some examples of how Wesh is currently used on this helpful webpage.
Where can I find more French slang words?
Our list is intended to cover the French argot words you must know. But there are many, many others, and no list is totally exhaustive, since language keeps changing and evolving.
The more you listen to and read French, the more French slang and colloquialisms you’re likely to come across. But there are also some good references that can help you learn more French slang words, too.
For starters, Wiktionnaire has an impressive list of several hundred French argot terms. Some may be debatable, and not all uses may be included for every word, but the list is really an excellent reference.
Although it’s not nearly as long, this website has a good list of French argot words and expressions. And you can finish off your introduction to French argot with this list of 30 more words and phrases.
This video gives a really interesting look at slang terms that are popular with young French people today. ….Of course, if you’re reading this article a few years after it was published, be aware that not all of them may still currently be cool. Still, several, like daron/daronne and Wesh have had some staying power so far!
For advanced French speakers, this website, which is similar to Urban Dictionary, lets you look up French argot words and get definitions and audio clips. Note that, like Urban Dictionary entries, many of the words featured here are fairly new and may not stand the test of time.
Slang can also vary from place to place. For instance, Parisian slang is a fun, rich subgenre of French argot. You can peruse this list for some Parisian argot terms – many of which are from a charming bygone era.If there’s a French region, city, or a Francophone country that you’re interested in, you could also do an online search for it, followed by “argot” and see what you discover!
Keep in mind that other types of French slang, including texting and internet slang and verlan, syllable-reversing slang, also include words that are very common in everyday spoken French. You can learn more about those in our articles about them.
Do I need to know French slang?
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article, many of the words on our list are a part of everyday informal spoken French. Even if you prefer to speak more formally, you will almost inevitably come across most of these words – if not all of them – at some point in your French learning journey. So it’s best to at least be familiar with them.
And if you’re worried that slang isn’t “real” French, bear in mind that many of these words have been in the French language in their argot (in addition to their literal) sense for centuries. For instance, daron has been a French argot word for “boss” or “father” since the 1700’s. Borrowed words like toubib have also been a part of everyday spoken French for a long time; the word was known in military argot in the 19th century.
Language is a rich, ever-evolving thing, not something that’s rigid and immobile. Even if you don’t like slang, it’s practically impossible to avoid. So at least be familiar with these terms. And hopefully, you’ll find at least a few que tu kifferas grave !