If you want to sound fluent and confident in French, and not speak like a book either, you’ll need to know about French slang and familiar words.
But there’s so many of them! How are you supposed to learn them all ?
Well, today we’re in luck! There’s a few rules you can use for a special category of French words: those that end in -ard !
They’re common in French slang–but not all of them are slang either.
Let’s review how you can understand them, without having to learn them all.
You’ll be able to actually use them in your everyday spoken French, quickly!
“What is this lesson about? Is it for me?”
→ If you’re a beginner: focus on remembering that “-ard” words are often used in slang + the words we’ll see in part 1 (“-ard” words as adjectives of belonging)
→ If you’re an intermediate learner: same thing + add in the words in part 2 (“-ard” words used for popular French)
→ If you’re an advanced student: same thing + go the extra mile and learn all the different forms of “-ard” words. So that later you can understand, notice and use them!
Are you ready?
C’est parti !
Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?
What’s “-ard” ?
The letters -ard in French are un suffixe (=a suffix), a group of letters that we can find at the end of a word, for nouns and adjectives.
It’s pronounced [“Aaarrh”] (The “d” is silent – just like in Django). To create the feminine version of a word in -ard, just add an “e.” It’s become “-arde” (pronounced [“aard.”])
In French, the suffix -ard can add:
- Un signe d’appartenance (=a marker of “belonging”)
- Un sens populaire (=a familiar, “everyday French” feel to a word)
- Un sens péjoratif (=a pejorative meaning, something bad)
Today we’re going to focus on these simple categories, so you can understand these words and how they’re built. Instead of just memorizing them!
Some other words end in -ard and fall outside these rules, but we won’t cover them today. They’re mostly transparent words, like un blizzard (= a blizzard). If you still want to go deeper: on this link, you will find all French words that end in -ard.
Want to read this lesson later ?
1) Beginners: L’appartenance / le lien
Our first category of uses for “-ard” will convey l’appartenance, ou le lien (= belonging, or a strong link).
This is not slang: these are merely neutral words (or a bit familiar, for some of them.)
This is the easiest!
For instance, if you find the noun un montagnard, you can see that it’s built on la montagne (= the mountain) + -ard → someone who belongs to the mountain → a mountaineer (or a person whose home is on a mountain.)
It’s also an adjective for all things mountain-related:
un climat montagnard (= a mountain climate), la vie montagnarde (= mountain life)…
(One side-note thing, however: the adjective montagneux means “mountainous / with mountains,” such as un pays montagneux, a mountainous country.)
Similarly, the adjective for la campagne (= the countryside, the rural area) is campagnard, a synonym for rural (= rural).
And for instance, in la Savoie or la Haute-Savoie, two French areas near my city of Grenoble, people are called les Savoyards, and les Haut-Savoyards.
Finally, “-ard” can be used for other links. Someone who drives une moto (= a motorcycle) is un motard.
The extra mile → We also have a common word in French newspapers for les soixante-huitards, people who were involved in the social movements of Mai 68 (and it’s an adjective for the ideas that spread at the time.)
In French, we use une majuscule (= a capital letter) for nouns of residents in a particular place (demonyms)–but not for the adjectives. That’s why we write “une Savoyarde” (a woman from Savoie), and “la fondue savoyarde” (a cheese fondue from Savoie). Or un Français (a French man) and le français (French language).
2) Intermediate: Une note populaire
The suffix -ard can add une note populaire (= a familiar tone) to words.
These words are still not really slang, they’re neutral or familiar, colloquial.
Un costume (a suit [clothes], neutral) → un costard (a suit, colloquial)
Français (French, neutral) → franchouillard (“Frenchy”, cliché of a French person or French way of life).
We discussed these two words in the last episode about “Les Vieux Fourneaux”, remember ?
These words in -ard often sound a little bit funny for us, they’re affectionate.
Un saucisson (a thick, dry sausage) → un sauciflard (colloquial for “saucisson” between friends)
Rond (= round, gros, fat) → rondouillard (= a bit fatty, a little overweight, colloquially)
And we can also derive adjectives from common names:
une pantoufle (a slipper) → pantouflard (colloquial adjective, “who likes to stay in their slippers” = home-loving, sitting around, taking it easy, cocooning).
Pantouflard is a synonym for the less-familiar adjective casanier, that also means “someone who prefers to stay at home than going out.”
Pantouflard and casanier are close to another colloquial noun, that we use when a friend gets into a relationship, and stops going out with you or having fun with friends. When they prefer cocooning than socializing, we call that friend un canard (= a duck).
And it also ends in -ard ! But here it’s just a coincidence.
3) Advanced: Un sens péjoratif
There’s un sens péjoratif (= a pejorative meaning, when something’s bad or wrong) with words that end in “-ard”.
This is where we find slang, familiar words, and even crude language that you should probably avoid (but that you need to understand.)
For instance, un tocard is a loser, it’s a familiar (but not really crude) word for someone who’s generally contemptible.
In other words, you can generally infer the meaning from the root:
From un chauffeur (a driver), we build un chauffard (= someone who drives too fast, who can become a hit-and-run driver).
From la flemme (= colloquial for la paresse, “laziness”), we have un flemmard (= a lazy person).
From la frousse or la trouille (= both are colloquial for la peur, “fear”), we build un froussard and un trouillard (= a coward).
Finally, there’s a very common rude word in colloquial French. It comes from con (= stupid), another very common vulgar word. With an added pejorative suffix, it becomes un connard (= an asshole, a jerk).
It’s not very nice, but you need to understand the word, so that you won’t be confused, wondering if that mean driver on the road called you un canard (= a duck) !
For the extra mile, French singer Francis Cabrel also wrote a song called Chauffard… that speeds up as it goes.
Un flemmard often has du retard, lateness, tardiness (it ends in “-ard” ! But that’s only a coincidence.)
In formal French, “a coward” is also called un couard, but that’s an old-fashioned word.
Another rude, almost vulgar, very common insult in French slang is bâtard (=bastard, jerk), that also ends in -ard, but that might be a coincidence.
4) Want more? Sources and quizzes!
Etymology nerds (like me, sometimes) can dives into a very interesting journal article (in French). Le sens péjoratif du suffixe “-ard” en français, by Kurt Glaser is a 52-page study from 1910 (!), first published in the “Romanische Forschungen,” one of the oldest German academic journals, dedicated to the study of Romance languages, their literature and cultures.
Since it’s so old, you can find outdated words (for instance, “chicard”, that has now turned into chicos, a colloquial funny-sounding word for “classy” that I like a lot.) Glaser also dives in les patois régionaux (= regional slangs, local dialects), and the differences between old medieval French and “modern” French (from 1910)
For even more study of etymology, specifically through the Middle-Ages, I also recommend Une étude diachronique du suffixe -ard : Un examen du sens de quelques mots médiévaux, by Tova Erbén from the University of Stockholm.
Fictitious kabbalist Aaron Smith-Tumbler shares his theory on the pejorative suffix “-ard”: if “le hasard” (= randomness) is the bad side of “la chance” (= luck), if “le placard” is the closest you can get stuck in (professionally or romantically)… It can be fun to think that it might not be a total coincidence!
Answers to the quizzes
You can take a few minutes to try the quizzes in the video yourself, if you didn’t already! Here are the answers.
All these words aren’t pejorative or vulgar; most of them (except in the “advanced” section) aren’t even colloquial, really.
Un banlieusard is a resident of la banlieue, (Parisian) suburbs.
Un fêtard is someone who enjoys la fête, parties.
Un thésard is someone who’s studying for une thèse, a thesis for their PhD.
Un binoclard is someone who wears des binocles, a colloquial word for des lunettes, glasses.
Un taulard is someone who lives in la taule (or la tôle), a colloquial word for la prison, prison → “Un taulard” is a prisoner.
Want to save this for later ?
Et toi ?
Quel est ton mot en -ard préféré ?
What’s your favorite French word in “-ard” ?
Write in French if you dare. For instance, my own answer would be:
Mon mot en “-ard” préféré est “binoclard”, parce que je porte des lunettes.
Answer me on the blog, I’d love to hear from you!
And don’t forget to share this lesson with a francophile friend who might enjoy it!
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