French is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. I mean, we all dream of speaking French fluently, right?
But the truth is, the French we learn at school and from textbooks doesn’t quite sound the same as the actual French spoken by natives. Why? Because French native speakers use a lot of slang (argot) in their daily conversations.
And if you want to start sounding like a French native, it's important to add some some popular slang phrases to your French learning. Thankfully, you don’t actually have to have an advanced level of French to learn new slang terms.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Learning French Fast
At Lingopie, we know how important it is to learn a language as close to its natural form as possible. With our Lingopie streaming platform you can find a selection of French series, documentaries, movies and podcasts where real French is spoken (with bits and bobs of slang terms in there).
We highly recommend you have a browse and see if you can pick up any new expressions you come across. You don’t need to know every single French slang term to feel like you’re proficient in the language. Even knowing just a few and being able to slip them into your conversations will look highly impressive to the people you are speaking to.
That’s why we have put together a list of popular slang words and phrases used in French speaking countries to get you started.
Let’s take a look:
Popular French Slang Words:
1. Bouffer (to eat)
The verb bouffer is the slang word used to replace the actual verb for ‘eating’ in French which is manger. However, bouffer gives a sense of eating excessively or even greedily. This word is used a lot by young people and teenagers.
Example: Je vais bouffer: I am going to eat.
You may also hear the term une bouffe which means ‘a meal’.
2. Un truc (a thing/ the thingie)
This word is used very frequently in daily French conversation. Un truc is simply an informal word for ‘a thing’ in French. It is usually used when talking about an object we can’t remember the name for (we do this in English, we say the thingie!).
We can also use this slang term when saying “that really isn’t my thing”. It is a really useful word to know.
Example: “Le foot, c’est pas mon truc!”. Football isn’t my thing.
3. Un mec (a guy, dude, mate)
This slang term is a simple and very handy one to memorize. Un mec refers to a person of the male gender. You can refer to your male friends as well as your boyfriend as your mec. It is similar to the word ‘bro’ in English.
4. Une meuf (a woman, a girl, chick)
This is the feminine version of un mec. You can use une meuf to refer to a person of female gender or your girlfriend. Meuf actually sounds like the French word femme (woman) reversed, even though it is spelt differently. Cool!
5. Un bordel (a big mess)
If you translate this word literally, it means ‘a brothel’, but un bordel is commonly used as a slang term to mean ‘chaos’ or ‘a mess.’
You might hear this expression used a lot in France: Quel bordel! What a mess!
It can express something along the lines of ‘what a disaster!’ so don’t be surprised if you hear it grumbled or shouted negatively.
6. Pote (friend, buddy, mate)
The actual word for friend in French is ami/amie. Pote is the slang term used for referring to a close friend (either male or female). A variation for this word is poto. In English we use the term mate, which means the same thing.
Example: Roberto est mon meilleur pote. Roberto is my best friend.
7. Chouette (great, nice, cool)
As a noun itself, chouette is the word for owl in French. But as a slang term, you can use it to describe something you like or to say something or someone is cool.
Example: Mon prof est chouette. My teacher is cool.
C’est chouette! That’s great!
8. Piquer (to steal)
Piquer is the slang term for to steal something. It is often used to replace the actual term for stealing in French which is voler.
Example: Il m’a piqué mon portefeuille! He stole my wallet!
9. Bosser (to work)
The actual verb in French for ‘to work’ is travailler, but the informal term bosser is used a lot in French speaking countries. This one will be quite easy to remember as it contains the word ‘boss’ in English, so it should help you recall that it is work related.
There is a well-known French expression: bosser comme une dingue, which means to work your ass off!
Popular French Slang Phrases
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with a few French slang words, here are a few useful slang phrases and expressions for you:
1. Je me casse (I’m out of here)
Funnily enough, if you literally translate Je me casse, it means ‘I break myself.’ But this expression is commonly used as a way of saying ‘i’m out of here’ when you decide to abruptly leave somewhere. It is useful for when someone has really annoyed you or you get fed up at a social event.
As a note of caution, you should only really use je me casse with your closest friends, as it can come across as quite harsh. Please don’t use it in the middle of a formal work meeting!
2. Laisse tomber (drop it)
If somebody ever tells you to laisse tomber, they are telling you to ‘let it go’ or to ‘drop the conversation.’ It is a bit like ‘never mind’ in English.
Sometimes we try to explain something, but the other person just doesn’t quite get it. If the topic isn’t that important anyway, this is the appropriate time to drop in a laisse tomber.
3. Je suis crevé(e) (I’m knackered)
Je suis crevé is a common slang expression which indicates exhaustion and feeling worn out.
Example: J’ai mal dormi. Je suis crevé. I slept badly. I’m exhausted.
4. Avoir la flemme (can’t be bothered to)
This is a common French slang expression that literally translates to “to have laziness”. It is a great phrase to use when you want to say you can’t be bothered to do something. However, don’t use it in formal work environments as it is probably too familiar for that.
If you want to politely say to someone that you don’t want to do something, stick to ‘je n’ai pas envie.’ (I don't want to).
5. Je te kiffe- i like you.
The term kiffer actually has Arabic origins and in English it would translate as: to like something, to be attracted or to take pleasure in something. This word is mostly used by French teenagers. If someone tells you je te kiffe they are saying they like you (but it doesn’t come across as seriously as je t’aime.)
You can use kiffe to talk about things you love. For example, je kiffe bien ton style (I really dig your style).
6. C’est n’importe quoi (it’s nonsense)
This is used a lot in daily French life. When someone says something silly or without substance, you can drop a c’est n’importe quoi. It basically means that’s nonsense, that’s absurd or that’s bullshit!
It can come across as quite dismissive towards the other person and what they are saying. Almost like a ‘whatever!’
Example: Tu dis n’importe quoi! You’re talking nonsense!
So, how many of these expressions will you be able to memorize? Do you have a personal favorite?
Remember that you don’t need to learn every single slang term out there. Simply slipping a few into your phrases is enough to sound a bit more French.
Don’t forget that watching movies and series in French is a worthwhile way to pick up slang expressions. You will also be able to hear how the words are correctly pronounced. Why not have a look at our large French selection of TV shows on Lingopie?!
If you have a Netflix account you should also check out our list of the best 14 shows to help you learn French and if you feel in need of a laugh we also have this awesome list of our best comedies in French.
With a good grasp of slang expressions, you will find it easier to make French friends, your language learning journey will be a lot more fun and best of all, you will sound a lot more like a French local.
See also: Curse Words in the French Language: Using French Swear Words Like a Pro