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Increasing Your English Vocabulary French Words in English - Pt 1

Updated: Feb 21

View through trees of Eiffel Tower with boats on river in foreground
Eiffel Tower in Paris

Introduction - Increasing your English vocabulary

English is not a ‘pure language’. Many words have come from other languages to enter English.

One reason for this is that the British Empire colonised other countries.

The British made English the ‘official language’. But while the British were there, they acquired words from those countries’ languages.

Those words will be the topic of a future article.

For this article, I want to explain why so many French words appear in English. France was never a colony of Britain. In fact, France, like Spain, was a colonising power as well.

It was the conquest of the Britons in 1066 by the Normans that led to French words being used in England.

Anglo-Norman French became the language of administration, law, and culture in England.

In this way, it made its mark on the English language.

You may not even realize you are speaking French when you use these words. And did you think that as well as learning English, you had to learn French as well?

Here is a small selection of the more common French words you will see in English.

French words in English

Bouquet – a bunch of flowers. It means more: a pretty, even 'arty' arrangement of fresh flowers.

It also means an aroma, a scent or perfume. Pronounce it: “boo-kay” or /bu'kei/ .

Many French words end in ‘-quet’ which is pronounced “kay” or /kei/ . For example,

a tourniquet ( /ˈtʊə.nɪ.keɪ/) - something tied around a bleeding arm or leg to stop the loss of blood.

Chauffeur – (pronounced “show-fer” or /ˈʃəʊfə(r) or /ʃəʊˈfɜː(r)/ )

A person who drives a car for others as passengers.

This term applies to formal drivers who often drive limousines - another French word. Prounce it as: “lim-oh-zeens” or /ˌlɪməˈziːnz/ – often shortened to ‘limo’.)

Cliché - an overused expression or idea; in written English, clichés are best avoided.

It alludes to an opinion, phrase, or concept that has been used so often it has lost any originality or impact. Pronounce it as: “klee-shay” or /ˈkliːʃeɪ/ .

Faux – (pron: “foh” or /fəʊ/ ) Not real, or an imitation. French for “fake”. In English, it means materials that copy other materials.

  • , such as faux fur, which is not made from animal fur.

Fiance/fiancée – (pron: “fee-yon-say” or /fiˈɒnseɪ/ ) A person engaged to be married.

The stage between being a boy/girlfriend and husband/wife. The male is a fiancé; the female is a fiancée.

  Do not confuse it with the word ‘finance’.

Queue – (pronounced like the letter ‘Q’ or /kjuː/ ).

A line of people/documents waiting to be served/printed.

Also, ‘queue-jumper’ – merging one French word with an English word. It means a person trying (and sometimes succeeding) to be at the front of the line.

Rendezvous – (pron: “ron-day-voo” or /ˈrɒndɪvuː/ ) A pre-arranged meeting or meeting place. Taken from military terminology, it has become common in ordinary use.

RSVP - RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase “répondez s'il vous plaît".

It means “respond if you please” or more simply, “Please reply”.

You see this abbreviation on the printed invitation. “RSVP” is all you need to say, but it is informative to know the French.

Souvenir - A memento or keepsake, that remind us of special moments in our lives. Pronounce it as: “soo-ven-eer” or /ˌsuːvəˈnɪə(r)/ .


This article introduced you to a short selection of French words found in English.

I have written it with the aim of increasing your English vocabulary

In the meantime, keep an eye out for these words as you read or listen to English.

Make an effort to learn them, as well as the contexts in which they appear.

As I said, they are used quite often in English.

Further Reading

 You can learn more French words used in English by reading my other article on this topic.

If you'd like to know how to grow your vocabulary, here is an article that I have written that gives reasons, as well as tips on how you can expand your vocabulary list.

© Apex English Tutoring Jan 2021 - Updated January 2024

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About Me

Hello and welcome!

My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.

As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.

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