May 28, 2024

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9 words that only exist in French

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Have you ever wondered about words that only exist in French? Dive into a fascinating exploration of French vocabulary with unique expressions that have no direct English equivalents. From "dépaysement" to "flâner," these words capture complex feelings and concepts in a single term. Expand your linguistic horizons and discover the beauty of untranslatable French words. Explore these unique expressions now…
French words

Find here the French words that are untranslatable and discover their meaning !


The dépaysement literally means to leave one’s country in French. It refers to the feeling we have when our habits change or when our environment is not the one we usually live in. It can happen when we move in a new place, when we are travelling, when we are eating or smelling something unusual for example. The dépaysement is actually the opposite of the routine and of what is familiar, the opposite of what feels like Home.


Flâner is probably what you do when you are on holiday in Paris : walking around, slowly and happily, with no specific goal. How nice ! The English word that would get close to this meaning is to stroll, to walk in a leisurely way, but flâner really has an ounce of floating around.


Affriolant is one of the French words that built the French reputation. As a matter of fact,it could be translated by sexy, but it actually means more than that : Take off the vulgar and provocative side of sexy, and add sensuality, temptation and imagination to it, there you have it, Affriolant. (Stop thinking about it now !)


Marinière is intially a pattern of navy blue stripes and white stripes. It became the name of the sweat-shirt with this actual pattern. It became the traditional outfit when foreign people think about French people, with the baguette under the arm. So French ! (In real life, the baguette is half-eaten)


Chauffer literally means to heat, but when used as ça va chauffer (it’s gonna get hot), it means that the feeling we have right now will get to the next level :

  • I am angry at somebody, and something made me even more angry : Ca va chauffer
  • You are happy to go to a party, and you’re even more excited now that you’re there : Ca va chauffer
  • I am witnessing a fight, and they are going to come to blows : Ca va chauffer

Se recroqueviller

Se recroqueviller is the word we use when a snail is going back into its shell. When used for a human, it describes the change of posture from lungs wide open to closing the shoulders and becoming as small as we can (hard to describe !). This reaction can be observed when ashamed, cold or scared. We can also use this position to fall asleep.


The retrouvailles is one of the French words we love most : it’s when we get the chance to meet again with one or several people we love, but that we haven’t seen for a long time. Happiness, hugs, love, tears are the emotions that are expressed during the retrouvailles.


Mitonner means cooking a meal that takes a long time, and doing it with love. We imagine someone spending all afternoon cooking dinner for his guests… Can you smell it ?


Spleen is actually an English word that is either an organ or being in a bad mood. In French, it is completely different. Charles Baudelaire (French poet in the XIXth century) made up this word. I have the spleen (j’ai le spleen) means that I am feeling deeply sad and melancholic, for no real reason.

Let me know in the comments if there is any word in your language that cannot be translated as well ?

Also discover why are French Movies not appreciated outside France !