20 French Fluency Shortcuts: Slang


French slang isn’t just for young people! If you want to sound more fluent when speaking French and if you want to understand real French people better if they talk, it’s essential that you learn some common slang words.

In this compilation of my most popular videos on French slang, you’ll uncover 20 unique informal words to enrich your vocabulary and enhance your fluency effortlessly.

C’est parti.

1 – Chouette

Chouette = nice, cool, super, fine.
C’est chouette ! = That’s cool, that’s nice.
Ce livre est vraiment chouette. = That book is really cool, really good.

It just sounds so friendly and cheerful! You can also say:

C’est sympa.
C’est super.
C’est cool.
But “chouette” just sounds better.
Une chouette = an owl.

Le truc en plus: There are two words for owls in French. Le hibou is an owl with egrets on its head (feathers that look like “ears”), and la chouette is an owl without egrets.

2 – Fais gaffe !

Fais gaffe ! = Be careful!

It is also close to Attention! In French, “Attention !” is always a warning. It’s not a neutral “Attention, please.”

Je fais gaffe. = I’m (being) careful.
Tu fais gaffe. = You are (being) careful.
Tu fais gaffe à pas marcher sur ce câble. = You’re being careful not to walk on this cable.
Elle fait gaffe aux courants d’air. = She’s careful about air drafts.

Other synonyms for “une gaffe” (= a gaffe):

Une bourde = a blunder,
Un faux pas = a faux pas,
Une erreur = a mistake.

It comes in verbs too:

Faire une gaffe = commit a gaffe (make a mistake),
Faire une erreur = make a mistake,
Se tromper = To mistake, to err, to be wrong,
Se planter = informal for “se tromper”.

Depending on the context, the verb gaffer can mean “to make a mistake” or “being careful” (especially as se gaffer).

Oups, j’ai gaffé. = Oops, I made a mistake.
Là, il faut que tu te gaffes. = Now, you have to be careful.

We must mention Gaston Lagaffe by Belgian comic book author Franquin when discussing gaffes. A riff on the Beatniks and the creative yet lazy youth of the late 50s and 60s, the character remains popular and inspired a movie adaptation.

Click here to learn more:

3 – Se marrer

Se marrer = informal verb for rire = to laugh.
Attention: it has nothing to do with “la marée”, which means “a tide”.
J’me marre. = Je me marre. = I’m laughing.
Marrant = funny
C’est marrant. = That’s funny.
C’est trop marrant. = That’s so funny.
Ah, c’est marrant, j’savais pas. = Ah, c’est marrant, je ne savais pas. = Oh, it’s funny, I didn’t know that.

Le truc en plus :Se marrer” used to mean “to be bored”, but by irony, the meaning switched to “funny” in the XIXth century.

4 – Vachement

Vachement = literally “like a cow”. It’s an informal adverb for “very”, and it’s not rude at all, but it’s not elegant either. In everyday French, we also use trop (= too much) as a synonym for très (= very.)

C’est vachement marrant. = That’s really funny.
Juliette est une nana vachement chouette. = Juliette is a really cool girl.
C’est drôle. = That’s funny. (less informal)
Julien est pas un gas vachement marrant. = Julien isn’t a terribly funny guy.
C’est vachement bien ! (informal) = C’est très bien ! C’est super bien ! = That’s very good!
Il y a vachement de monde. (informal) = Il y a beaucoup de monde. = There are a lot of people.

In modern colloquial spoken French, we often use Trop (= too much) as a synonym of Très (= very).

C’est trop bien ! = That’s too good. That’s so good. That’s very good.

Of course, sometimes, you’ll need to use the context to decide if trop means “very” or “too much”.

Oh, tu es trop gentille ! (Merci beaucoup !) = Oh, you’re so/very nice! Thank you!
Oh, tu es trop gentille ! (Arrête de te laisser faire !) = Oh, you’re too much of a nice person! Stop being such a pushover!

5 – La nana

Une nana = une fille = a girl (informal word in French)

Le truc en plus: And it has nothing to do with the nickname ‘nana’ for grandmothers! Here in France, une grand-mère (= a grandmother) can have different nicknames, but the most common ones are mémé or mamie (= granny.)

Une nana is also called “une meuf” in le verlan slang.

Click here for more:

Un mec, un type, un gars = un homme, un gaçon = a guy, a man, a boy
Un mec bien = a good guy.
T’as vu ce type ? = Tu as vu ce type ? = Did you see that guy?
Salut les gars ! = Hi, guys! (the “r” in “gars” is silent)

Ce mec fait vachement gaffe. = That guy is really careful.
Amélie est super chouette, on se marre beaucoup. = Amélie is so cool, we have a lot of fun.

6 – C’est chaud !

In correct, standard French, chaud means “warm, hot.

Attention, c’est chaud ! = Be careful. It’s hot!
J’ai chaud. = It’s hot in here. I’m feeling too hot.

And yeah, we say “J’ai chaud” and not “Je suis chaude“ because, in colloquial French, Je suis chaud (masculine) means “I’m motivated.” While “Je suis chaude.” (feminine) means “I’m aroused.

Click here to learn more:

But “C’est chaud” is something else when applied to something or a situation. In colloquial French, it means: “It’s hard, it’s difficult.

C’est chaud d’apprendre tous les verbes en français. = It’s hard to learn all the French verbs.
J’ai un train dans dix minutes, ça va être chaud. = I have a train in ten minutes, it’s going to be difficult to catch it.
Le test était chaud, mais je pense que ça va aller. = The test was hard, but I think it will be fine.

C’est chaud” can also mean “hardcore/borderline” too.

T’as vu ce qu’il a fait ? C’est chaud ! = Did you see what he just did? That’s hardcore!
C’est chaud de dire ça, devant tout le monde. = That’s hardcore/borderline acceptable to say that in front of everybody.
Bon, Lionel, j’ai pas de problème avec ta vaisselle sale, mais là c’est chaud quand même. = Well, Lionel, usually I don’t have a problem with dirty dishes, but now, that’s becoming too much, I have to say.

7 – Kiffer

Kiffer” is a very popular slang word in conversational French, especially for Millenials and younger. It comes from an Arab word, le kif, meaning “pleasure, good time.”

Kiffer = aimer (to love), apprécier (to enjoy)
Je kiffe ce groupe. = I like this band.
On est là pour kiffer ! = We’re here to have a good time!
Je te kiffe. = I like you. or I love you. (but with less formality/elegance)
C’est le (gros) kif ! = That’s a (really) enjoyable moment!
On kiffe ! = We’re enjoying the moment!
un kiffeur = un bon vivant, an Epicurean who enjoys life.

8 – Relou

Relou = annoying = verlan slang for “lourd” (= very; with a silent “d”).

Le verlan is a special way to create slang words in French by saying them backwards = à l’envers (= in reverse.) Verlan is itself verlan for à l’envers.

Click here to learn more:

Relou always means “annoying.”
Tu peux arrêter ? T’es relou. = Can you stop? You’re annoying. (informal pronunciation: “Tu es” becomes “T’es”)
Mardi c’est relou, on peut se voir demain plutôt ? = Tuesday is inconvenient. Can we meet tomorrow instead?
Je me suis fait accoster par un relou. = a creep has propositioned me.

Lourd mostly means “heavy”:
Ton sac est très lourd ! = Your bag is really heavy!
Il fait lourd… = The weather is heavy. (there’s pressure, like before a storm)

It can also mean “annoying”:

Oh, t’es lourd. = Oh, you’re annoying.
Arrête avec tes blagues lourdes. = Stop with the unsubtle, crass jokes.
Arrête avec ta drague lourde. = Stop with the heavy-handed flirting.

In colloquial (but a bit old-fashioned) French, we also use lourdingue = annoying, frustrating, tiring, unsubtle, shitty.

9 – Poser un lapin

Poser un lapin = to stand someone up (literally “to put a rabbit on there”)
Il m’a posée un lapin ! = He stood me up!

The origin of the expression: “Poser un lapin” nowadays means not showing up for a meeting or date without notifying them. In 1880, it originally meant “to not repay a young girl’s favors.” Back then, “lapin” referred to refusal of payment. Later, it also meant a stowaway. The current form of the expression likely originated around 1890 from “laisser poser,” meaning “to keep someone waiting.”

Le truc en plus:Savez-vous planter les choux ?” = Do you know how to plant cabbages? is a very popular French nursery rhyme.

10 – Planter

Planter = to stand someone up (colloquial).
Planter = to plant (literally)
Planter un légume = to plant a vegetable.
Il m’a plantée au dernier moment. = He bailed at the last moment. He left me high and dry.

Planter can have a wide variety of meanings in everyday French, though.

Se planter = to make a mistake.

  • Je me suis planté d’arrêt ! = Oh no, I left at the wrong stop!

Rester planté = staying put.

  • Aide-moi, ne reste pas planté là ! = Help me, don’t simply stand and watch!

Planter quelqu’un (avec un couteau) = stabbing someone

  • Il était en colère et il l’a planté ! = He was angry and stabbed him!

We’d rather say:
Il l’a planté avec un couteau. = He stabbed him with a knife.
Il lui a planté un couteau dans le ventre. = He stabbed a knife in his belly.

11 – Se faire des films

Faire un film, faire des films = to make a movie, to make movies (literally)

  • Perrine fait des films. = Perrine makes movies.

Se faire des films = to fantasize, to imagine (literally “to movies for yourself”)

  • Perrine se fait des films. = Perrine is imagining things.
  • Il ne va pas t’appeler, arrête de te faire des films. = He’s not going to call you. Stop imagining things. Stop making movies in your head.
  • Oh, personne ne lui en veut, elle se fait des films, c’est tout. = Oh, nobody’s holding a grudge against her. She’s just being delusional, that’s all.

Rêver = to dream
Imaginer = to imagine
Imaginaire = Imaginary
Fantasmer = to fantasize, especially of un fantasme.
Un fantasme = a fantasy, especially a sexual fantasy.
La fantaisie = whimsy
La fantasy = fantasy as a literary genre, like Lord of the Rings.
Le merveilleux = wonderful, fantastic + literary genre of fairy tales
Fantastique = fantastic, unbelievable
Fantasque = erratic, air-headed
Un fantôme = a ghost

12 – (Se) prendre la tête

Se prendre la tête = literally to take your head; in colloquial French, it means “to stress out, to overthink.

  • Ça fait une heure que je me prends la tête sur ce problème. = I have been stressing out about this problem for an hour.
  • Détends-toi, tu te prends trop la tête. = Relax, you’re over-worrying.

Prendre la tête = To take the lead, to become the leader (correct French)

  • Il a pris la tête de la course. = He took the lead in the race./He’s in first place.
  • Elle a pris la tête de l’entreprise.= She took over the business. She’s now head of the company.

Prendre la tête = To be annoying, To give a hard time (correct French)

  • Arrête, tu me prends la tête ! = Stop it, you’re bothering me!, like “you’re confronting me, and I don’t like it.
  • Il lui a pris la tête toute la soirée. = He’s been bugging her the whole evening. / He’s been giving her a hard time.
  • Ce problème me prend la tête. = This problem is annoying. / It’s giving me a hard time. / It’s killing me. (figuratively)

We also say: Casser les pieds = “to break the feet” = to be annoying.

Tu me casses les pieds ! = You’re bothering me!
C’est très casse-pied. = That’s very annoying.

There are rules to this colloquial expression:
It’s not “Tu prends sa tête,” / “Je prends ma tête”.
It’s really “Tu (lui) prends la tête,” (= You’re annoying them) / “Je me prends la tête” (= I’m stressing out.).

It’s rarely about Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris who’s holding his own head in his representations – what experts call un saint céphalophore, “saint who’s holding his own head”.

Le truc en plus :
And at the intersection of Casser les pieds and Prendre la tête, we have un casse-tête (= “a head breaker” literally), which is a riddle, an enigma, or a physical “brain teaser” puzzle. Like these interlocking metal links that you have to break apart – what we call un casse-tête chinois (= a Chinese puzzle).

That’s also the name of a great 2013 movie with Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou, a sequel to “L’Auberge Espagnole.”

Click here to learn more:

13 – A snack.

  • Le goûter = a light bite in the afternoon (especially for children). For example, une viennoiserie : un croissant or un pain au chocolat.
  • Un en-cas = short for “en cas de besoin” (literally “in case you need it”). It is the closest thing to “a snack,” but the word is formal and rarely used.
  • Grignoter = to nibble and to eat outside of meals. Usually used negatively:
    Je devrais arrêter de grignoter entre les repas. = I should stop having snacks between meals.
  • Un casse-croûte = “a break-crust”, is a simple meal, often a sandwich. You can eat things for a lunch break on the road when walking around a city or hiking in nature.

French culture doesn’t allow “snacks,” light food outside meals. We still do it anyway, but it’s a cultural blind spot. Instead of a precise translation of the noun “a snack,” we use verbs like “grignoter” or… the English word directly: “un snack.”

Click here to learn more:

14 – Rude.

Rude” is a false friend, a false cognate! The French adjective “rude” exists, but we don’t use it for everyday impoliteness or offensively bad manners.

Click here to learn more:

The English adjective “Rude” is in French:

  • Impoli = impolite
  • Grossier / Vulgaire = Vulgar
  • Insultant = Insulting
  • Agressif = Aggressive

These words care more about a breach of etiquette rather than hurt feelings. That’s a nice summary of the stereotypical cultural differences between French and American people!

In French, on the other hand:
Rude = harsh (weather), difficult (task), brutal (treatment), rough

Or using the dictionary definitions, we find other synonyms:

  • Rugueux = rough (une peau rude = rough skin)
  • Sévère = strict, harsh (Tu as été rude avec lui. = You were harsh with him.)
  • Frustes = rough-mannered (des manières rudes = rough manners)
  • Redoutable = formidable. (une rude concurrence = formidable opposition)

Le truc en plus: We sometimes use the adverb “rudement” to mean “very, particularly.” It’s a bit old-fashioned now. But you might still find French books where someone says:
C’est rudement bien ! = It’s really good! / It’s so good!

15 – Judgmental.

French culture can be very judgmental! But there’s no simple translation for the word itself. Instead, we have:

  • Méprisant = scornful,
  • Accusateur = accusing,
  • Moralisateur = sanctimonious, moralizing,
  • Critique = critical.
    Elle m’a jeté un regard critique. = She gave me a critical look.

And verbs:

Juger = to judge
Critiquer / Faire des critiques = to criticize / to give criticism

It’s like the expression “Holier than thou”: there’s no clear French translation, but it’s a common dynamic nonetheless!

Le truc en plus:Critique” is also used for art or food appreciation!

Un critique = a critique
Une critique = a review

16 – Offended.

The French language does have a translation for this:

Offensé(e) = offended.

However, it sounds outdated – more appropriate for an XVIIIth century offense to one’s honor requiring a duel or something. Related words are only used for sports and the military:

L’offense = the offense (an attack)
Offensif = offensive (focused on attacking).

For offended feelings, instead, we’d use adjectives such as:

  • Choqué(e) = shocked. (Or “sous le choc” = under the shock.)
  • Blessé(e) = hurt, wounded. → And not béni (= blessed.)
  • Heurté(e) = bumped
    Heurter = to hit without meaning to, to bump into (literally)
    La voiture a heurté une barrière. = The car hit a safety barrier / bumped into a barrier.
    J’ai été heurté par tes paroles. = Your words have struck me. Your words have hurt me. (metaphorically)
  • Vexé = piqued, vexed.
    Vexer = to pique someone’s pride, to hit someone’s self-assurance.
  • Tu ne m’as pas invitée, ça m’a vexé, je suis vexée. = You didn’t invite me. It hurt my pride.

So “offended” is a bit of a mix of “heurté” and “vexé”: a hit that can hurt, but also an attack on your pride.

Now, in real life, meanings can change. And with the influence of American culture on French discourse, offensé is making a comeback: young French people use more and more simply offensé as a direct translation for “offended.” But it didn’t fully catch on yet.

Le truc en plus: The same thing is happening with the English adjective “offensive” as well. You can use:

Blessant = hurtful,
Injurieux = injurious, verbally abusive,
Insultant = insulting.

But when translating English views of something being “offensive,” French people simply use offensant more and more. Even though the word didn’t exist before.

17 – Confusing.

Confusing = déroutant, confus.

However, there’s a bit more behind this:

  • Déroutant (= literally “rerouting”) also has a meaning of “surprising, original, unusual.” And it hints at a hidden order behind the confusion – something you haven’t yet understood.
    Un film déroutant = An unusual movie you didn’t fully understand (but you could, with time and thought.)
  • Confus also means “confused” and “messy.”
    Un film confus = a movie that doesn’t quite know what points to make, a messy movie.

French people started using confusant as well. It’s a clumsy direct translation that sounds weird. Like offensant earlier, it’s not widespread, but it’s becoming more common.

However, the official arbiter of the French language, l’Académie française, has issued an official reclamation against using “confusant” ! Instead, they recommend using:

  • Troublant = troubling,
  • Perturbant = disturbing.

But once again, the meanings don’t precisely match.

18 – Empowerment

The English term “Empowerment” comes from the feminist struggles of the early-XXth century. But for the French public, this concept was mainly introduced in the 2000s by prominent organizations such as l’ONU (l’Organisation des Nations-Unies) (= the UN) or la Banque Mondiale (= the World Bank.) Now, we use it for business and management, far from its radical roots. And since business and management love using English words, they didn’t look very far for a suitable French translation.

The official translation is l’autonomisation, but it sounds robotic, while la responsabilisation sounds judgmental, or l’émancipation, which sounds tied to the fight against slavery / for voting rights. L’empouvoirement also exists, but it sounds ugly and is rarely used.

So in most cases, people use the English word directly: “Empowerment.”

Coming from Québec, we have an alternative: le pouvoir d’agir (= the power to act, to do things). And it comes back to the activist roots of empowerment.

Le truc en plus: Le pouvoir d’agir also offers a nice translation for “agency” (in sociology/psychology), the capacity to act. The official translation is agentivité, but it’s pretty obscure. For a “travel agency” or an “Intelligence Agency”, we simply say une agence.

Click here to learn more:

19 – Awkward

Awkward = Gênant, or Gêné
J’ai eu un moment gênant avec Julien. = I had an awkward moment with Julien.
Hum, désolé je suis un peu gêné. = Hmm, sorry, I’m being a bit awkward.

However, we also have:

  • Gênant = embêtant = troublesome / annoying
    Mon vélo a crevé, donc c’est gênant pour se déplacer. = My bike tire punctured, so it’s difficult to move around.
  • Gêné = embêté= having trouble / being annoyed
    Je suis gêné pour venir te voir. = I’ll have some trouble coming to see you.

Between “awkward” and “troublesome,” there are

  • Mal à l’aise = ill at ease,
  • Embarrassant(e) = embarrassing
  • Lionel se retrouve souvent dans des situations embarrassantes. = Lionel often ends up in embarrassing, awkward situations.
  • Embarrassé(e) = embarrassed.
  • Maladroit(e) = clumsy,
    Unmaladroit / une maladroite = a clumsy person.
    Antoine a encore fait une remarque maladroite. = Once again, Antoine made a clumsy, awkward comment.

20 – Foodie

French people love eating well, but there’s no word for “foodie”. You can use different words to discuss your food preferences:

  • Un amateur / une amatrice de bonne cuisine = someone who enjoys good food.
  • Un passionné / une passionnée de restaurant = somebody who’s passionate about restaurants.
  • Un gastronome = who enjoys the finest food.
  • Un gourmet = who really enjoys the finest food and finest wine.
    Mon frère est un gourmet, il nous a invités à dîner dans un restaurant gastronomique. = My brother is a gourmet, a foodie. He invited us for dinner at a gourmet restaurant / a foodie restaurant / a fancy restaurant.
  • Un gourmand = who really enjoys eating, not necessarily gourmet food.
    Je suis un grand gourmand ! = I really love to eat. I’m a big foodie.

There’s no French “foodie.” Yes, there are countless great restaurants in France. And many people really enjoy fine dining. But it didn’t really become a widespread hobby or a one-word concept!

Le truc en plus: One of the obscure French songs I like is Blues gourmand (Charlélie Couture, 1997).

Click here to learn more:

4) Extra Resources (blog only):

Keep learning more everyday scripts to prepare for your trip to France or reconnect with the language!

Click here to get your next lesson:

À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!

→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂

Double your Frenchness! Get my 10-day “Everyday French Crash Course” and learn more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away.

Click here to sign up for my FREE Everyday French Crash Course

Join the conversation!

  • I have been telling all who love mysteries and/or le francais that a great streaming subscription is MHzChoice which features Murder in France: 37 episodes of dramas set all over France. so well done et plein de l’argot quotidien. Rick Steves with a plot!

  • Double Your Frenchness

    Crash Course

    Enroll in in my free 10-lesson course that has helped thousands like you 2x their Everyday French in 10 days!

    Share this post!


    Download this lesson as a PDF!

    Please enter your name and email address to get the lesson as a free PDF!