Develop your Vocabulary - French Words in English - Part II


In this second article on French words used in English, let me explain that many French words are used in English when we talk about food and in particular dining out.

It is useful to learn them so you will know what they mean when you hear or see them - to improve your English (or French).

So, here are a few common French words used in English to talk about food and drinks.

à la carte pronounced /ɑː lɑː ˈkɑːt/

It is the practice of ordering individual dishes from a menu in a restaurant, instead of ordering from a set menu such as ‘chef’s suggestion’ or ‘soup of the day’. (Note the French words in this sentence.)

menu (countable noun) pronounced /ˈmenjuː/ (plural: menus)

A menu is a list of dishes available in a restaurant.

"The waiter handed her a menu."

Also: ‘drop-down menu’ – a feature on websites that show a list of extra pages.

apéritif (countable noun) pronounced /əˌperəˈtiːf/ /əˌpɛrɪˈtiːf/ (plural: aperitifs)

An aperitif is a drink (usually alcoholic) drunk before a meal to stimulate the appetite.

café (countable noun) pronounced /ˈkæfeɪ/ (plural: cafés)

A café is a type of restaurant which typically serves coffee and tea, in addition to light meals or snacks.

picnic (countable noun and a verb) pronounced /ˈpɪknɪk/ (plural: picnics)

(past tense: picnics)

Originally a 17th Century French word, picque-nique, a picnic refers to a group of people having an informal meal, brought in a picnic basket, often outside, sitting on the ground on a blanket, or at a table under a shady tree.

“We had a picnic of sandwiches on the riverbank last weekend.”

“We used to picnic there every weekend when we were kids.”

omelette (countable noun) pronounced /ɒmlət/ (plural: omelettes)

A flat round pancake made by mixing eggs together and cooking them in a pan.

“Cheese omelettes are delicious!”

bon appétit pronounced /bɒ̃ æpəˈti/ (sometimes ‘bon’)

Phrase used when someone is about to begin eating, to express the hope that they will enjoy the meal. It literally means ‘good appetite’.

hors d’oeuvre (countable noun) pronounced /ɔː(r) dɜː(r)v/ (plural: hors d’oeuvres)

A small amount of food served before the main course of a meal.

“Please, have an hors d’oeuvre with your aperitif!”

vinaigrette (non-countable noun) pronounced /vɪneɪˈɡret/

A light sauce for salads and cold vegetables, made from a mixture of oil, vinegar, and spices.

“This vinaigrette is delicious!”

restaurant (countable noun) pronounced /rest(ə)rɒnt/ (plural: restaurants)

A building or room where meals and drinks are sold and served to people sitting at tables.

“His parents are opening a restaurant next door. It’s an Italian/Mexican restaurant.”

chef (means ‘boss’ in French and not only ‘cook’) (countable noun) pronounced /ʃef/

Someone who is paid to cook food at a restaurant. A head chef. (plural: chefs)

“They say the chef at the new restaurant has worked in many of the best French restaurants.”


In this article, I have introduced and explained a small selection of French words – the more common ones, at least – used in English as they are found in cooking and dining. There are other contexts in which French words are used and I will write about them in future articles here. So, please keep an eye out for them.

References Used:

Macmillan Dictionary

© Apex English Tutoring Feb 2021

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