Have you ever wondered about the etymology of the phrase déjà vu? Like 30% of words in the English language, this phrase has French origins—déjà meaning “already,” and vu meaning “seen” (the past particle of the verb voir). Since the Norman Conquest of 1066, following which a French-speaking aristocracy was established in England, French words and phrases have fused with the English language.
We’ve compiled a list of more than 30 English words with French origins that are commonly used today. Check out our list below to see if any of these surprise you!
Perhaps one of the first English words that comes to mind when you consider French food is croissant (from the French word croissant, meaning “crescent”), but here are a few others:
● Baguette—from the French word baguette, meaning “stick”
● Cafe—from the French word café, meaning “coffee” or “coffee house”
● Cuisine—from the French word cuisine, meaning “kitchen”
● Eclair—from the French word éclair, meaning “lightning”
● Menu—from the French word menu, meaning “detailed list”
● Soufflé—from the French word soufflé, meaning “blown”
● Soup—from the French word soupe, meaning “sop” or “broth”
● Restaurant—from the French word restaurante, meaning “restore with food”
● Vinaigrette—from the French word vinaigrette, meaning “vinegar”
The English word orange comes from the Old French word orenge, or the phrase pomme d’orenge, which actually refers to the orange fruit. Here are some other English words for colors that have French origins:
● Beige—from the French word beige, referring to undyed wool fabrics of this color
● Maroon—from the French word marron, meaning “chestnut”
● Mauve—from the French word mauve, meaning “mallow”
● Scarlet—from the Old French word escarlate, meaning “scarlet cloth”
● Turquoise—from the Old French word turquiese, referring to the blue-green stones believed to have first been brought to Europe from Turkey
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You may already know that the French phrase bon voyage, meaning “have a good journey,” is also used in the English language, but here are some other travel-related English words with French origins:
● Chauffer—from the French word chauffer, meaning “stoker”
● Detour—from the French word detour, meaning “a change of direction,” or détourner, meaning “turn away”
● Hotel—from the French word hôtel, and the Old French word hostel
● Souvenir—from the French word souvenir, meaning “memory”
If you own a home, you likely pay a mortgage, which comes from the Old French word mortgage, meaning “dead pledge.” Here are a few items you may have around your home that are also named by words with French origins:
● Armoire—from the Old French word armarie, meaning “cupboard” or “bookcase”
● Cushion—from the Old French word cuissin, which is based on a Latin word meaning “cushion for the hip”
● Portrait—from the Old French word portraire, meaning “portray”
● Potpourri—from the French word potpourri, meaning “rotten pot”
The dance style ballet (also ballet in French)was largely formalized in France. There are many other English words for the arts that have French origins—here are a few:
● Film noir—from the French phrase filmnoir, meaning “dark film”
● Papier-mâché—from the French word papier-mâché, meaning “chewed paper”
● Poetic—from the French word poétique, meaning “poetic” or “relating to poets”
● Renaissance—from the French word renaissance, meaning “rebirth”
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