8 French Phrases That Do Not Translate in English

8 French Phrases That Do Not Translate in English

Learning French is always filled with surprises, especially when some words and phrases do not exist in English. For us, this is one of the most exciting things about learning a foreign language - discovering completely new things we never knew existed. On that note, we wanted to provide a few French phrases and words you may have never heard before but might find inspiring. As you read, imagine incorporating one of these in your next conversations en français. Also, if you know a few that aren't listed, feel free to add it to the comment's section below. Bonne lecture!

Girl at a French cafe

"La douleur exquise"

Oh, the romance of the French language! This phrase is both eloquent and rather depressing as it roughly translates to "the exquisite pain." For French people this phrase would be used in reference to the longing for a love that cannot be achieved. Very similar to a Romeo and Juliet scenario. Next time you find your heart aching for something it cannot have, remember this phrase to sum up your expression.


It's almost shocking that a word like this does not exist in English as Americans are one of the largest consumers of media on the planet. However, the French came up with a term which describes viewers who are either audience members of a live TV broadcast or are simply watching/listening to TV from their home as a téléspectateur.


If you've ever been to Europe, you know that long leisurely strolls through city plazas is a common activity for the locals. In French, you may think to describe this with the term 'une promenade' (which means a stroll in English). However, in the 19th century, a new word was created which defined a stroll, more specifically a stroll through Paris, without any particular destination or goal in mind as Flâner. Thus, aimless Parisian pedestrians strolling the city only to enjoy the view became known as Flâneurs.


If you are a crafty person, then this French word is for you. It translates to something very similar to do-it-yourself or DIY. Additionally, a bricoleur describes someone like a handyman.


This one is perhaps the oddest French phrases of them all which describes an extreme sense of dissatisfaction and frustration. It would be something similar to the English "I've had enough," "I'm through," or "I've had it up to here with..." This is typically the last thing you might hear out of someone's mouth before storming out of a room after a heated discussion.


This term is a way to describe how animals eat. It can also be used to impolitely refer to humans, kind of like the saying that someone 'eats like a pig.'


This rather charming French word describes the ultimate sense of joy experienced when meeting someone you may not have seen for a very long time. If you could see it, it would look like someone jumping up and down and screaming with happiness.


In short, this term means craziness. The word and how it came to be is crazy within itself. It's root, louchébem, is a slang term invented by French butchers in the 19th Century who made a sort-of-game out of the French language. For each word, they would move the first consonant to the end, add a standard suffix, then place the letter 'L' at the very beginning. This is something like 'pig latin' or 'gibberish.' To this day, this slang language is still used in France by butchers across the country. The root of this term is indeed just as crazy as its meaning.

Learning French is always surprising and these 8 French Phrases That Do Not Translate in English are just a few of the hidden secrets to becoming more fluent in French. Have other words or phrases you'd like added to this list? Don't forget to post them in the comment's section below & pass this forward to your francophone friends online using #jplingo @jplinguistics. Merci et à bientôt!