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French words in English

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See the tab above for an extensive CATALOG of French words in English.

There have been French words in English since not long after the Norman Conquest. Chaucer imported those that end in -sion or -tion (though he often also spelt them -cion or -cioun).[1] More recent additions are ménû, machìne (-sh-), façàde (*fəssàd), crèpe and elìte (the accents, which are not the same as the ones used in French, show stress and pronunciation, see English phonemes for the IPA and English spellings for a table). English more-or-less French pronunciation is typified by the proper names *Cítron, *Përzho and *Rénno for Cítroen, Pëugeot and Rénault (* before a word indicates a respelling). So fond of French words is the English language that some expressions that are identical or nearly so in English will receive a French-style pronunciation used in a French context: cohabitation (*coabitassión), a situation where the president and prime minister come from different parties, cf. cohabitâtion, living together; Front National (*Fronassionál), to contrast with the UK's Nátional Frònt.

Pronouncing French words too Frenchly sounds pretentious in an English context. Why say 'Stephàne Grapellỳ' when it is so much easier to say *Stéfən Grəpélly? Boulŏgne (*Bə-lŏin, as opposed to French 'Bû-lónyə') and Párís (with s sounded) have anglicised pronunciations, as do the painters Dègàs (*Dâygà for 'Dəgá'—the name was originally de Gas) and Rénoir (*Rénwà instead of *Rənwàr—the anglicised pronunciations are generally spurned by those anglophones who have learnt French, but even they would not normally in an English context pronounce the final 'r' in 'Renoir'); by contrast the more recently famous country Nigèr has a French-style pronunciation, *Nì-zhãir - in contrast to Nigêria (*Nîjêria) and the river Nîger. Being a syllable-timed language, French has no tonic accent, so when a new French word appears in the news, it may receive several pronunciations, as with Alassane Ouattara's name at the beginning of 2011, in which it seems equally acceptable, and perhaps equally unsatisfactory, to stress any one of the three A's (or indeed any two of the six, though the first name usually receives a light stress on the final A, typical of French speech).

But many more French words and phrases are less assimilated than those above, and they are often written, like other foreign words, in italics. They can retain their written French accents in (especially British) English. None of these accents should be regarded as compulsory in English, but they are often used (as are also the cedilla in curaçao, probably from Portuguese, and the umlaut in the German doppelgänger).

Index

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

Notes

  1. The latter is not used nowadays, while -cion occurs only in a few words, such as suspícion