French Phrases: 5 French Slang Words Anyone Can Use Without Sounding Awkward


Informal French slang is a great way to sound more authentic in everyday French.

C’est parti.

1) French informal slang: Chouette

Chouette means “Nice!”
As in:
C’est chouette ! = That’s cool, that’s nice.
Ce livre est vraiment chouette. = That book is really cool, really good.

It’s one of my favorite slang words in everyday French. 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.

As a noun, la chouette is an owl.

In French, there are actually two words for owls. Le hibou is an owl with egrets on its head (feathers that look like “ears”), la chouette is an owl without egrets.

2) French informal slang: Faire gaffe

Faire gaffe” means “Being careful.”

As in:

  • Je fais gaffe. = I’m 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.
  • Fais gaffe ! = Be careful!

It’s close to: Attention ! = Be careful!

In French, “Attention !” is always a warning, it’s not a neutral “Attention please.”

Gaffe also comes in: Une gaffe = a gaffe.
Other synonyms:

  • 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

You can’t talk about gaffes without mentioning Gaston Lagaffe by Belgian comic book author Franquin. The character is a riff on the beatniks, and the lazy but creative youth of the late 50s / early 60s. He’s still quite popular, and there’s been a movie adaptation. I recommend the comic book… But not the movie, to be honest.

3) French informal slang: Se marrer

Se marrer = informal verb for rire = to laugh

  • Je me marre. = I’m laughing.
  • C’est marrant. = That’s funny.
  • C’est drôle. = That’s funny (less informal)
  • And not: la marée = the tide

Fun fact: “Se marrer” used to mean “to be bored”… But by irony, the meaning switched to “funny” in the XIXth century.

4) French informal slang: Vachement

Vachement = literally “like a cow”, it’s an informal adverb for “very”

As in:

  • C’est vachement marrant. = That’s really funny.
  • Faut faire vachement gaffe. = We need to be very careful
  • Ce livre est vachement chouette. = That book is very good.

In informal French, we also use trop (= too much) as a synonym for très (= very.)

Vachement is really common, not rude at all, but not very elegant either.

5) French informal slang: La nana

Common French:

  • Un homme = a man
  • Une femme = a woman
  • Un garçon = a boy
  • Une fille = a girl

Une nana” is informal French for “a girl, a gal” (but it is becoming a bit outdated).

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 (see below.)

For a guy, you can say:

  • Un mec, like Un mec bien = a good guy, a honest guy
  • Un type, like Tu as vu ce type ? = Have you seen this guy?
  • Un gars, like Salut les gars ! = Hi guys!

Learn more about informal French:

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

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Join the conversation!

    • Bonjour Barbara,

      Je me perfume = I put cologne/perfume on (literally, I perfume myself).

      I hope this helps.

      Comme Une Française Team

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