The French Library is known for its high-quality, immersive French language classes. Thousands of students have been taught simple words and phrases and progressed to more advanced classes where students pore over and dissect great works of French literature. But still, there are certain English words that just don’t seem to have a French equivalent. You know what we mean! You try to translate your English word but there just doesn’t seem to be the mot juste.  Here is a list of words in English that don’t seem to have an exact French equivalent.

The English word: Cozy; The English word conjures up images of wool sweaters, fireplaces, and hot tea. Cozy has positive connotations but the French don’t seem to have a word that describes a perfect après-ski experience.
Close French equivalent: chaud (hot), cosy (borrowed from English)




The English word: Cupcake; Cupcakes had a major moment in the mid 2000s and they are still a sweet treat enjoyed at a variety of American celebrations today. This little cake doesn’t seem to quite be as popular with  the French but they certainly aren’t hurting for sweet treats !
Close French equivalent: cupcake pronounced with a French accent




The English word: awkward; The dictionary defines awkward as “causing difficulty” or “causing or feeling embarrassment or inconvenience”. Surely most human beings will experience this state but the English word has a slightly different sense than the French counterparts.
Close French equivalent: maladroit (literally, clumsy), bizarre (weird), génant





The English word: fun; We all want to have it but this English word doesn’t seem to have a direct translation in French!
Close French equivalent: amusant (used as an adjective); le fun (pronounced with a French accent)






The English word: slacker; You know the stereotype- someone who doesn’t want to do any work, makes a habit of giving minimal effort.  Yes, this person is lazy but their laziness has overtaken their persona so they become….a slacker.
Close French equivalent: paresseux, tire-au-flanc






The English word: vibe; The use of the word “vibe” generally implies a feeling one gets and the French equivalents just don’t quite vibe with what we are looking for 🙂
Close French equivalent: ambiance, atmosphère





The English word: dip; We’re not talking about the verb here! We’re talking about the popular party appetizer that can be paired with veggies, fruits, and crackers. Maybe it’s healthy, maybe it’s not, but the French don’t seem to prioritize it for their fêtes.
 
Close French equivalent: trempette





The English word: Around the corner; “Where can I get a gallon of milk?” “Oh, there’s a market just around the corner!” Americans use this expression to describe the ease of locating something they are looking for. While the French may have places where they can easily get things, their expression looks a little bit different.
Close French equivalent: au coin de la rue, dans le coin



The English word: workout (class); It’s not that the French aren’t sporty or athletic. They certainly have their share of gold medals and trophies!  However, when you want to tell someone about your Zumba or HIIT workout class you went to last night, you might have to search for less precise words.
Close French equivalent: “I’m going to a workout class.”  Je vais à la gym./Je vais à un cours de sport.




Natalie Collet

Former Membership Manager

From the Midwest, Natalie is a Francophile at heart. Her interest in French started when studying ballet and​ the language and culture entranced her through her student years.​ She became involved with the - Alliance - in the suburbs of Chicago after she spent an unforgettable year teaching English in a French high school near Bordeaux. She is happy to join the team in Boston and work with the members to provide them with unique opportunities​, ​quality programming​, and a community through French!

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