Top 20 French Words You Should Definitely Use In English Writing

Being able to express yourself clearly through the written word is a skill that every student of English aspires to attain. In order to beautify your prose and make your writeup seem like a delicately carved work of art, it is recommended to embellish it with words from foreign languages. French words are widely used by wordsmiths around the world to add finesse and grace to their writings, and it is highly suggested to learn some of the most well-known ones to further advance your vocabulary. Here are 20 such words:


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  1. Potpourri: In modern parlance, potpourri has two meanings- a) a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is kept in a jar and used for scent or aroma b) a miscellaneous collection of interesting stuff e.g. his new blog was a potpourri of movie reviews and humorous blurbs.
  2. Hors d’oeuvre: You must have heard this term a lot during dinners. It is an appetizer that is served before the first course of a meal.
  3. Cul-de-sac: This has several meanings- a) a dead-end street or a blind alley that is closed at one end b) a situation in which no further progress is possible
  4. Matinée: When talking about entertainment, you must have heard this term a lot. Matinee is used for a movie, play or musical performance that is held during daytime, usually in the afternoon.
  5. R.S.V.P: This is written at the end of every wedding invitation card. Ever wondered what it meant? Fun fact- some people actually think it means ‘Remember to send valuable presents’!.
    Actually, it literally means ‘répondez s‘il vous plaît’ or ‘please respond’. That means the invited guest needs to tell the host whether they plan to attend or not.
  6. Avant-Garde: An oft-used term in the field of arts, avant-garde refers to new, experimental ideas and methods in music, art and literature.
  7. Touché: During arguments or discussions, sometimes your opponent comes up with a really good point. Touché is used as an acknowledgement of the same.
  8. Risqué: Do you have a friend who makes slightly indecent jokes, laced with a narrative that verges on the sexual? That means your friend has a risque humour that may not be appropriate for several people.
  9. Coup-de-Grâce: An act that is a deathblow for a situation that is worsening, a decisive blow e.g. Rohan’s public argument with his manager was the coup-de-grace to his miserable job situation.
  10. Cause célèbre: This means a) a controversy that attracts major attention as a legal case or b) any notorious person or incident.
  11. En Masse: This is commonly used as a collective and refers to a group. E.g. The employees resigned en masse from the company.
  12. Piéce de resistance: Another commonly used French word, it refers to the main dish of a meal or the most noteworthy or special feature of any event or article. E.g. The Jacob diamond was the piece de resistance of the Nizam’s jewelry exhibit.
  13. Double Entendre: You know the word ‘double-meaning’, right? Like double-meaning jokes where the interpretation is usually risque or indecent? Well, double entendre is just a more sophisticated term for it. E.g. The anime, though aimed at teens, was filled with double entendres.
  14. à la carte: Used in restaurants, an ‘à la carte’ menu refers to food that can be ordered as separate items, instead of eating from a fixed set of dishes with fixed prices.
  15. Au contraire: Used for ‘on the contrary’. g. To critics who say that the Mad Max movie didn’t have a story, au contraire, it had a very strong feminist narrative.
  16. Au Revoir: Most of you must be aware of this. It is used as a farewell expression and means ‘goodbye until we meet again’.
  17. Bon Appetit: Again, another term used in dining. Whenever you are in a restaurant or about to start your meal, someone might say ‘bon appetit!’. It means enjoy your meal.
  18. Bon Vivant: This is referred to a person who becomes more cultivated and refined regarding food and drink, or someone who likes to socialize and host lavish parties. You can look up the page 3 section of any supplementary newspaper like The Delhi Times or HT City and you will find many examples of these.
  19. Bourgeois: A word often bandied around in socio-economic discussions, bourgeois refers to the member of the middle class (read merchants and shopkeepers) whose political, social and economic opinions revolve around commercial interest.
  20. C’est la vie: An expression used to suggest that such situations happen in life and one cannot do anything about them. To put it short and sweet, it simply means ‘such is life’.

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