French Slang: Speak 21st Century French

You sometimes spend years trying to perfect your grammar, speak textbook French, master the most intelligent vocabulary, sound sophisticated, and yet suddenly all of that can be thrown up in the air when you encounter a French person speaking slang. Being able to understang or using French slang will help you to communicate more effectively in French. As a private French tutor, I obviously try to teach the most correct and sophisticated French. However, language is alive and in constant evolution, exactly the opposite of something that is set forever “gravé dans le marbre pour toujours” (indelibly printed). A language has something to do with the richness, the complexity, the diversity, and the creativity that is beyond the established linguistic norms. This is the reason why, as a teacher of French, I always strive to teach the most authentic French, including slang “argot”. To me it is almost as important to be able to understand a common idiomatic expression as to be able to employ the correct conjugations. To be able to do so is essential to learning how to be chatty, informal and friendly in French.

There’s a whole host of new words and terms that are used by native speakers. I have collected some of the most commonly used French slang terms that will make you sound like a local. It is obviously not an exhaustive list, with some words and expressions being colloquial and potentially can insult someone (which I obviously do not recommend to test in a real situation !). Obviously it is not my main aim, but it might be helpful to be aware of some of them.

My mini French Slang Dictionary


A la mode: in fashion, fashionable, current


Une bagnole: car

La bouffe: food, grub

Bouffer: to eat; wolf down; gobble up

Un boulot: job, work

Un bouquin: book

Bourré: drunk

Branché: trendy


Une clope: cigarette

Crevé: exhausted

Coincé: uptight

Connard!: ass! (n.b.: used only in reference to men)

Conasse!: bitch!, bitchy woman (n.b.: used only in reference to women)

Une connerie: stupid words or actions

Costaud: strong, sturdy, tough


Déconner: to act like a jerk; lose it; kid

Dingue: crazy, nuts

Draguer: to flirt; pick up

Un dragueur: seducer


Engueuler: to tell off


Un flic: cop, police, copper, pig

Le fric: money

Un frigo: refrigerator


Un gamin(e): child, kid; little boy/girl


Merde !: shit!

Moche: ugly

Môme: kid, child, boy


Nul(le): dumb, bad, weak, poor


Le pognon: cash, money


Radin(e): stingy, miserly, miser

Rigolo: fun, amusing


Un salaud: bastard, swine, pig

Une salope: bitch

Se marrer: to have a good laugh

Snob: snobby, stuck up

Sympa: sympathetic, pleasant, enjoyable (abbreviated form). e.g. C’est très sympa d’échanger avec les autres


Un truc: trick, means

Ta gueule ! idiom:  shut up !


Zut: damn, drat, darn (mild imprecation), Zut alors! (Damn it)

Long words sometimes have a shorter version

You might often hear restau instead of restaurant. Don’t be surprised, when French people speak they will often shorten the version of words that contain more than three syllables. For instance, cinéma becomes ciné. Here is a short list of the most frequently employed examples:

Sympa (for sympathique): sympathetic

Une télé (for une television): TV

Un frigo (for un frigidaire ): fridge

Un petit-dèj (for un petit-déjeuner): breakfast (you might often hear : ptit dèj)

Une rando (for une randonnée): hike


The Verlan, an argot in the French language, features inversion of syllables in a word. The name verlan is an example: it is derived from inverting the sounds of the syllables in l’envers (“the inverse,” pronounced lan-ver). Teenagers in the suburbs mainly use this type of French slang. Let’s look at some examples of the most frequently used examples:

Beur: arab (verlan for arabe)

Ouf: crazy (verlan for fou) you might hear : un truc de ouf  (something crazy)

Keuf: cop; to pig (verlan for flic)

Kiffer: to like

Meuf: woman (verlan for femme) girl, woman

Reum : mother (verlan for mother)

Zarbi: weird (verlan for bizarre)

french slang
french slang

On instead of Nous

This one might not exactly fall into the category of French slang, but if you want to sound authentic, using on instead of nous will avoid immediately classifying you in the category of “Foreigners”.

You probably spent hours reviewing all the conjugation of nous, but trust me, you will rarely hear a French person use nous.

Get rid of the Ne at the negation

To make a verb negative, you have all learned to put Ne before the verb and Pas after the verb. For instance: Je ne veux pas (I don’t want). No native French speaker would ever use it in this way. In a formal situation, a native speaker would say: Jeun sais pas, gliding the je et the ne together. In an everyday situation, the je would disappear and become a sh sound, which would start the verb. You will then hear Shsais pas.

Je ne comprends pas: shcomprends pas: I don’t understand

Je ne sais pas: shsais pas: I don’t know

Je ne crois pas: shcrois pas: I don’t think

Je ne veux pas: shveux pas: I don’t want

french slang
french slang

Looking for more French slang?

For more of this useful, colloquial, type of French slang, check out the French Slang Dictionary in the event you do come across a phrase that you’re uncertain about. But beware: while this is an excellent resource, it doesn’t shy away from the slightly more insulting instances of French slang.

You’ll be fluent in French slang before you know it!