List of English Words of French Origin

List Of English Words Of French Origin

A great number of words of French origin have entered the English language to the extent that many Latin words have come to the English language.

According to different sources, nearly 30% of all English words have a French origin. This fact suggests that 80,000 words should appear in this list. However, this list does not include derivatives formed in English, but only the ones imported as such directly from French (for instance joy and joyous, but not joyful, joyfulness, nor partisanship, parenthood, …). It does not include either combinations of words of French origin with words of origin other than French (e.g. ice cream, sunray, jellyfish, killjoy, lifeguard, passageway). It also excludes English-made combinations of words of French origin (e.g. grapefruit is made of grape + fruit but has been coined in English, layperson: lay + person, consider also mailorder, magpie, marketplace, petticoat, straitjacket).

This list does not include words that come from French but were introduced into the English language via another language than French (e.g. domineer, ketone, loggia, lotto, mariachi, monsignor, oboe, paella, panzer, picayune, ranch, vendue, veneer).

Although French is mainly from Latin (which accounts for about 60% of English vocabulary either directly or via a Romance language), it also includes words from Gaulish and Germanic languages (especially Old Frankish). Since English is of Germanic origin, words that have entered English from the Germanic elements in French might not strike the eye as distinctively from French. Conversely, as Latin gave many derivatives to both the English and the French languages, ascertaining that a given Latinate derivative did not come to the English language via French can be difficult in a few cases.

Most of the French vocabulary now appearing in English was imported over the centuries following the Norman Conquest of 1066, when England came under the administration of Norman-speaking peoples. The majority of the population of England continued to use their Anglo-Saxon language but it was influenced by the language of the ruling elite, resulting in doublets. Consider for example the words for the meats eaten by the Anglo-Norman nobility and the corresponding animals grown by the Anglo-Saxon peasants: beef / ox, mutton / sheep, veal / calf, pork / pig, or pairs of words pertaining to different registers of language: commence / start, continue / go on, disengage / withdraw, encounter / meet, vend / sell, purchase / buy. Words of French origin often refer to more abstract or elaborate notions than their Anglo-Saxon equivalents (e.g. liberty / freedom, justice / fairness), and are therefore of less frequent use in everyday language. It may not be the case of all English words of French origin though. Consider for instance: able, car, chair, city, country, fine, fruit, journey, juice, just, part, people, real, stay, table, travel, use, very, wait.

After the rise of Henry Plantagenet to the throne of England, other forms of dialectal French may have gained in influence to the detriment of Norman French (notably the variants of Anjou where the House of Plantagenet came from, and possibly Poitevin, the tongue of Eleanor of Aquitaine). With the English claim to the throne of France, the influence of the language in use at the royal court of France in Paris increased. The cultural influence of France remained strong in the following centuries and from the Renaissance onward borrowings were mainly made from Parisian French, which became the de facto standard language of France.

Norman rule of England had a lasting impact on British society. Words from Anglo-Norman or Old French include terms related to feudalism (chivalry, homage, liege, peasant, suzerain, vassal, villain) and other institutions (bailiff, chancellor, council, government, mayor, minister, parliament), the organisation of religion (abbey, clergy, friar, parish, prayer, priest), the nobility (baron, count, dame, duke, marquis, prince, sir), and the art of war (armour, baldric, dungeon, hauberk, mail, portcullis, surcoat). Many of these words related to the feudal system or medieval warfare have a Germanic origin (mainly through Old Frankish) (see also French words of Germanic origin).

The Norman origin of the British monarchy is still visible in expressions like Prince Regent, heir apparent, Princess Royal where the adjective is placed after the noun, like in French.

The vocabulary of heraldry has been heavily influenced by French (blazon, or, argent, sable, gules, passant), for more details see tinctures, attitudes, and charges of heraldry.

Sometimes used in heraldry, some mythological beasts (dragon, griffin, hippogriff, phoenix) or exotic animals (lion, leopard, antelope, giraffe, camel, zebu, elephant, baboon, dolphin, ocelot, ostrich, chameleon) draw their name from French. It is also the case of some animals native of Europe (via Anglo-Norman: eagle, falcon, squirrel, coney, rabbit, leveret, marten, ferret, salmon).

Besides the above-mentioned terms, the vocabulary of warfare and the military include many words of French origin (battalion, dragoon, infantry, cavalry, army, artillery, corvette, musketeer, carabineer, pistol, fusilier, squad, squadron, platoon, brigade, corps, sortie, reconnaissance/reconnoitre, surveillance, rendezvous, espionage, volley, siege, terrain, troop, camouflage, logistics, accoutrements, bivouac, aide-de-camp, legionnaire, morale, esprit de corps. See also military ranks: sergeant, lieutenant, captain, colonel, general, admiral). Many fencing terms are also from French.

The political lexicon include many words of French origin like liberalism, capitalism, materialism, nationalism, plebiscite, coup d'état, regime, sovereignty. The judicial lexicon has also been heavily influenced by French (justice, judge, jury, attorney, court, case). (See also Law French). It is also the case in the domain of diplomacy (attaché, chargé d'affaires, envoy, embassy, chancery, diplomacy, démarche, communiqué, aide-mémoire, détente, entente, rapprochement, accord, treaty, alliance, passport, protocol).

The influence of the French language has also marked the domain of the arts: surrealism, impressionism, fauvism, cubism, symbolism, art nouveau, gouache, aquarelle, collage, grisaille …; Architecture : aisle, arcade, arch, vault, belfry, arc-boutant, buttress, bay, estrade, facade, balustrade, terrace, lunette, niche, pavilion, pilaster, porte cochère ; Cuisine: petit four, soufflé, mille-feuille, croissant, pastry, gateau, baba au rhum, cream, caramel, custard, marmalade, meringue, clafoutis, flognarde, beef bourguignon, cassoulet, casserole, confit, gratin, mustard, mayonnaise, sauce, pâté, foie gras, terrine, navarin …

Other examples include color names (ecru, mauve, beige, carmine, maroon, blue, orange, violet, vermilion, turquoise, lilac, perse, scarlet) ; vegetables or fruits (courgette, aubergine, cabbage, carrot, nutmeg, quince, lemon, orange, apricot); months of the year (January, March, May, July, November, December).

Some of the French words that made their way into the English language were coined by French inventors, discoverers or pioneers, or scientists: cinema, television, helicopter, aviation, parachute, lactose, mastodon, oxygen, photography, stethoscope, thermometer, troposphere.

Some French words were named after French people (from their family name), especially in the fields of science (ampere, becquerel, coulomb, curie, daguerreotype, pascal, pasteurise, vernier), botany and mineralogy (begonia, bougainvillea, magnolia, dolomite, nicotine), fashion and style or any other cultural aspect (leotard, recamier, mansard, chauvinism, kir, praline, saxophone, silhouette).

Some words from Old French have been imported again from Middle French or Modern French, but have generally taken a more restrictive or specialised meaning the second time. Consider for instance : luminary / luminaire, liquor / liqueur, castle / château, hostel / hotel, mask / masque, necessary / nécessaire, petty / petit, ticket / etiquette, troop / troupe, vanguard / avant-garde. Note that the word in French has kept the general meaning: e.g. château in French means castle. Even when not imported several times in different forms, loanwords from French generally have a more restrictive or specialised meaning than in French: e.g. legume (in Fr. légume means vegetable), gateau (in Fr. gâteau means cake).

In some cases, the English language has been more conservative than the French one with Old French words (at least in spelling) (e.g. castle, vessel, forest). Other Old French words have even disappeared from Modern French: dandelion.

On the other hand, a move to restore the classical roots (Latin or Ancient Greek) occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Thus words from Old French saw their spelling re-Latinized. Although in most cases this did not affect their pronunciation (e.g. debt, doubt, indict, mayor), in some cases it did (e.g. abnormal, adventure, benefit). The ph transcription of words of Greek etymology was restored in lieu of the f. Thus fantosme became phantom, fesan became pheasant. This move occurred also in French, although less systematically (Old French farmacie became pharmacie ("pharmacy"), fenix became phénix ("phoenix"), but fantosme became fantôme ("phantom, ghost") and fesan became faisan ("pheasant").

Beside re-Latinization that blurred the French origin of some words (e.g. peradventure), other modifications in spelling have included folk etymology alterations (see crayfish, penthouse, pickaxe).

Furthermore, the spelling of some words was changed to keep the pronunciation as close to the original as possible (e.g. leaven), whereas in other cases the French spelling was kept and resulted in totally different pronunciation than French (e.g. leopard, levee). Terms that most recently entered the English language have kept French pronunciation and spelling (aplomb, barrage, bureau, dossier, garage, machine, mirage, panache, café, décor, bourgeoisie, espionage, élite, expertise, lingerie, armoire, critique, genre, ambiance, collage, montage, plaque, penchant, repertoire, entourage, terrain, glacier, debris, tranche, entrepreneur, financier), though this may change with time (e.g. the initial h in hotel is not silent anymore, consider also the evolving pronunciation of herb, or garage). Expressions like femme fatale, bête noire, enfant terrible are still recognisably French.

Borrowings are not a one-way process (See Reborrowing), some words of French origin ultimately come from Old English (Anglo-Saxon words) : e.g. : bateau, chiffon, gourmet. While conversely English words of French origin made their way "back" into Modern French : interview, jury, management, budget, challenge, pedigree, record, tunnel, vintage, humour, mess, sport, squat, standard, suspense, tennis, ticket, toast, toboggan

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    But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.
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