Bonjour! Discover Ten English Words Derived From French!

Published on July 8, 2024

Credit: Jossuha Théophile

Oh, la France! From Nobel-Prize-winning authors to delicious dishes and mouth-melting desserts, France's contributions to the world can’t be denied. However, you might be surprised to learn how deeply French culture has influenced the world we live in today. Sure, we are all aware of what the birthplace of baguettes is, but are you aware that everyday words like "scarlet" and "mortgage" come from France as well?

We have selected ten common English words that come straight from the elegant streets of Paris. Keep on reading and celebrate this wonderful exchange between our two languages. Bon voyage!



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We’ll begin with what’s probably the most well-known entry in this article. You don’t need us to tell you that "restaurant" comes from France: If English speakers were asked to say a French-sounding word on the spot, most of us would probably go straight to "restaurant". However, do you know the gorgeous, poetical meaning hidden in this everyday word?

"Restaurant" comes from 16th century France, in which this word first meant "food that restores" . In French, restaurant is derived from the word restaurer , which means "to restore or refresh". Therefore, this word can literally be interpreted as a place that serves food so good that it can restore you.



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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is an American classic and an argument could be said that the sharpness of its title adds to the gravitas of this novel. Do you think we would remember Hester Prynne’s troubles and tribulations if the novel was called "The Bright Red Letter"? No, "scarlet" definitively is a better fit , and we can thank the French language for this colorful word.

The word "scarlet" comes from escarlate , an Old French word that means "a type of cloth". Interestingly, escarlate itself comes from scarlatum , a Medieval Latin word of unknown origin that translates to "a scarlet cloth".



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The addition of "cushion" to this list might come as a surprise, but let’s try something: say the word "cushion" out loud. Doesn’t it vaguely resemble a French-sounding word ? Try repeating the word a few times, perhaps while pretending you are enjoying a warm drink in a cozy French cafe.

This bit of roleplaying notwithstanding, "cushion" comes from the Middle English word quysshyn , which in turn comes from the Old French word coissin . In turn, this word evolved into coussin , currently used by French speakers everywhere.



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Considering the world’s most famous portrait calls the Louvre Museum its home, it seemed only fair that we included this word on our list. "Portrait" comes from the Old French portraire , which means "to portray". However, it should also be noted that the word "portrait" has evolved rather similarly in both English and French, up to the point that currently both words are spelled in the exact same way.

The root behind both the English and French words is the Latin prōtrahō . As any Latin scholar could tell you, understanding the inner workings of this ancient language can be rather tricky: At first glance, prōtrahō means "I drag". However, another definition of this term could be translated as "to reveal" or "to expose" , which seems a more faithful root behind our modern understanding of what a portrait is.



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We placed this item in the exact middle of this article for a reason: Time to take a little detour. Well, not really, we are still going to focus on etymology, but let’s think about this middlepoint as a breather of sorts. After all, while having to take a detour on your way to work is certainly annoying, some changes in direction offer a whole different scenery for us to enjoy, and sometimes, a new road might bring a whole new meaning to the trip we find ourselves on.

Feeling refreshed? Great! Now let’s go back to the subject at hand. The word "detour" was borrowed from the French word détour , which in turn comes from the verb détourner (turn away). Our English word is practically identical to its French counterpart, although its pronunciation is definitively different.



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Paris is famous for its elegant, world-class hotels. From the Ritz to the Plaza Athenee, visitors everywhere know that a night spent in one of these hotels is a night spent in comfort and luxury. In that regard, the hospitality world has a lot to thank France for, besides setting the bar on splendid accommodation. How about, for starters, we thank the French language for providing the word "hotel" itself?

The French word ** hôtel **is one of the most borrowed words in modern history, considering that several countries use this word with little to no variations. In that regard, hôtel comes from the Latin word hospitālis, which can be translated to "hospitable" or as "guesthouse".



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While this word is obviously French , the story of how this peculiar color got its name is particularly interesting. The French word "turquoise" has remained practically unchanged since its adoption by the English-speaking world: only its pronunciation has slightly changed. Not only that, turquoise is the same term used in Old French for this color, during the time period this word was first introduced.

Interestingly, the etymology of this word doesn’t describe anything related to the tones or characteristics of this color, but it does focus on its origins. Turquoise is derived from the Old French words turc and ois, and it roughly translates to "Turkish stone". This relates to the fact that turquoise stones were brought over to Europe through Turkey.



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Not every word in this list can be pleasant. Let’s try to push through this one, we promise that the last two entries are way more fun. The mere mention of the word "mortgage" is enough to keep millions of English speakers awake at night, as if this common bank loan was some kind of adult version of the boogeyman. In any case, if you happen to be one of those unfortunate souls terrified by the mere mention of a pending mortgage, you should know you can blame the French language for this awful-sounding word.

Even the etymology of this word is slightly creepy: it comes from the Old French term mort gage , which roughly translates to "dead pledge". Luckily, it doesn’t involve any morbid subjects: the dead part of the term is derived from the fact that any interest would be paid to the lender and not deducted from the loan owed.



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Parachuting is one of those things that took a fear as primal as falling and turned it into something fun. While definitively not for everyone, it is highly recommended to anyone who feels at least a little bit like a daredevil, looking for that adrenaline rush that only these types of activities can provide.

For such an exciting hobby, the etymology of this French word is rather straightforward: It comes from the combination of para (protection against) and chute (fall). Just like with "restaurant", this word remains relatively unchanged in the English language, with only the pronunciation varying.



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We’ll end with one of the world’s favorite pastimes . Going to the movies is a universally beloved experience, and one that has transcended decades ever since its invention. From your children to your grandparents, every single generation in modern history has at least a few treasured memories that took place in front of a silver screen.

In that regard, the word "cinema" is as old as movies themselves: it comes from cinématographe , a term coined by the groundbreaking French filmmakers the Lumiere Brothers. Cinématographe comes from the amalgamation of the Ancient Greek words kínēma , which means "movement, and gráphō , meaning "to record" or "to write".


Follow the wise words of these brilliant thinkers!

Published on July 8, 2024

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Let's take pleasure in these pieces of advice that can encourage all of us, desktop travelers who often find ourselves lost in daydreams while exploring the world through those exciting apps and maps, hoping that, in some secret corner marked with an 'X,' we'll discover ourselves.


"Maps encourage boldness. They’re like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible."

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Mark Jenkins , world-renowned explorer, acclaimed author, and a foreign correspondent for National Geographic for three decades, knows maps.

Whether they are ancient scrolls illustrated with mythical creatures on their margins, warning 'There Be Dragons,' or the efficient digital versions that we carry in our pockets, fearlessly guiding us to our favorite bakery, maps offer us a challenge, the promise of an adventure, and, if we read them correctly, they always lead to a treasure.


"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

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J. R. R. Tolkien , the legendary creator of The Lord of the Rings reminds us that the adventure begins when we decide to move from contemplation to action and set foot outside our comfort zone.


"Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground."

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Judith Thurman , American writer, biographer, and poet, winner of the National Book Award for Isak Dinesen: The Life of A Storyteller, which served as the basis for Sydney Pollack's 1985 film Out of Africa, powerfully evokes the feeling of nostalgia for places completely unknown.

It's a mysterious call that resonates within us and refuses to be ignored.


"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must wake up."

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Frank Herbert encourages us to awaken the traveler who sleeps within us.

Considering the success achieved by the world-famous author of Dune , one of the most influential and best-selling works of science fiction of all time, it seems wise to heed his words carefully.


"If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there."

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Lewis Carroll , the renowned author of_Alice in Wonderland,_ reminds us of the advantages of carefully planning our trip before starting it.

Or, maybe he encourages us to take the plunge and let ourselves be surprised along the way.


"I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list."

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Few expressions overflow with as much optimism and capture the authentic spirit of the traveler as this luminous definition by Susan Sontag , the multifaceted New York writer, teacher, and film director, one of the great and challenging thinkers of the 20th century.


"Through we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not."

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Ralph Waldo Emerson , American essayist, philosopher, and abolitionist, author of great works such as The Conduct of Life, reminds us that beauty is in the way we look and that the experience we live depends much more on our own disposition than on the wonders we encounter along the way.


"Traveling it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."

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Ibn Battuta , the intrepid Moroccan explorer of the 14th century knew this well when he captured his travel memories of 40 countries and three continents in his work A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling .

From those fascinating chronicles to today's social media posts, we all know that our travels come alive again, and sometimes they only make sense, when we share them with others .


"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."

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When does a trip really end ? After a life that took him from his native China to the east coast of the United States, France, Germany, and back to China and America again, Chinese inventor, linguist, novelist, philosopher, and translator Lin Yutang —author among others of _The Importance of Living_—fully appreciated the value of returning to the known places after a long journey.


"If you think adventure is dangerous try routine. It is lethal."

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If these reflections haven't persuaded you to leave your seat and start packing your backpack right away, then keep in mind this final warning from Paulo Coelho , the renowned Brazilian author and creator of The Alchemist .

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day