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French Vocabulary

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Getting to know French vocabulary is an essential part of learning the French language.

woman learning french vocabulary

Along with French grammar, French vocabulary is the most important skill to know when you’re learning French. After all, you can’t actually use a new language without knowing the words, expressions and phrases that make up that language! The more French vocabulary you know, the more you’re able to talk about everything in your world — from what you do for work to your hobbies to your favorite colors and foods to the weather outside and everything in between.

Keep reading below to learn more about French vocabulary, or skip ahead to learn some of the most important French vocabulary words to get you started with the French language.

The Roots Of French Vocabulary

French is a Romance language, which means it is a descendant of the Vulgar Latin spoken by the common people of the Roman Empire — just like Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, for example.

Though English isn’t in the same language family as French (English is a Frenchic language), more than a quarter of English words come from Latin, and roughly the same amount of English words come from the French language (so, indirectly from Latin). And there are thousands of Greek words that have made their way into both English and French, too. That means you’re going to find a lot of Latin- and Greek-derived words in French vocabulary you already recognize. When you see the French words artiste, académique, or génération, for example, you’ll probably have no trouble guessing their English equivalents.

How Can I Improve My French Vocabulary?

There’s no right or wrong way to practice French vocabulary. The most important thing is that you find a way that works for you and helps you remember words and phrases when you need them most in conversation, writing or any other context.

Many people find it helpful to practice French vocabulary with flashcards. The typical French flashcard has an English word on one side and the French translation on the other, but you can write anything on either side of the cards — from definitions to example sentences using the word you’re learning.

Online learning sites like Quizlet are great for studying French vocabulary. When you use Quizlet French flashcards or the platform’s other games and tools, you can boost your memory retention and word recall, hone your spelling skills and practice French vocabulary in interactive, engaging ways.

Some people like to practice French vocabulary in more real-world ways. You might have heard of the sticky note method, where learners write the French word for items in their kitchens or living rooms on sticky notes, for example, and post them on those items to help them make the association with the French vocabulary word each time they look at or use that item. You can expand the system to label nearly everything in your home and to put notes of words you want to learn where you’re sure to see them, like on your shower door or on your ceiling above your bed for extra practice. This can be a really helpful French learning strategy for people who like to learn visually!

You can also recruit someone else to help you study French vocabulary. Have a friend, roommate or partner quiz you on word definitions and translations from a list you prepare. If you’re both learning French, challenge each other to review one list of vocabulary every day, and if one of you fails or falls behind, that friend owes the other a drink or a coffee, for example. Or point out different objects in your environment to each other and see who can name the most items in French without consulting a dictionary or other resource. There are so many ways to practice French vocabulary with another person, whether they’re learning French or not!

The most effective way to remember French vocabulary is to focus on the words and expressions that interest you the most instead of wasting time on vocabulary you find boring or will never actually use. You can tailor your French vocabulary to your careers, hobbies, passions and everyday experiences and fill in the gaps where you want more words. This could include French for business or the medical profession. Or perhaps you like talking about sports, the entertainment industry or politics. You can create your own specialized French vocabulary depending on what’s important to you in your learning journey.

   

Most Common French Vocabulary — Essential French Vocabulary Words By Topic

Get started with the basics of French vocabulary by checking out these themed lists of some of the most common French vocabulary words and phrases below!

Common French Phrases And Conversational French Vocabulary

From saying hello to introducing yourself to asking for the bathroom, you’ll want to know how to make a conversation run smoothly — whether you’re on an international adventure or just chatting up your new French-speaking friend. Here’s some essential conversational French vocabulary to get you started.

 

 

Looking for more of the most common French phrases and expressions for conversation? Click to learn more about useful common French phrases and conversational French vocabulary!

 

Colors In French

Roses are rouge, violets are bleu; rose and violet are both totally different colors in French, and you’ll learn those, too. Here’s some French color vocabulary you’ll want to know:

  • red — rouge
  • orange — orange
  • yellow — jaune
  • green — vert
  • blue — bleu
  • purple — violet
  • pink — rose
  • brown — marron
  • black — noir
  • white — blanc

 

Want to learn all the colors in French? Click to learn more French color vocabulary!

 

Numbers In French

Learning numbers in French will help you do everything from buying goods at the local supermarket to giving a cute stranger your phone number. Though there are some not-so-straightforward rules governing how to count in French, with practice, it can be as easy as un, deux, trois! Learn the basics of French number vocabulary below:

  • zero — zéro
  • one — un
  • two — deux
  • three — trois
  • four — quatre
  • five — cinq
  • six — six
  • seven — sept
  • eight — huit
  • nine — neuf

 

  • ten — dix
  • eleven — onze
  • twelve — deuze
  • thirteen — treize
  • fourteen — quatorze
  • fifteen — quinze
  • sixteen — seize
  • seventeen — dix-sept
  • eighteen — dix-huit
  • nineteen — dix-neuf

 

  • twenty — vingt
  • thirty — trente
  • forty — quarante
  • fifty — cinquante
  • sixty — soixante
  • seventy — soixante-dix
  • eighty — quatre-vingt
  • ninety — quatre-vingt-dix
  • one hundred — cent

 

Click to learn more about numbers in French and the sometimes tricky rules about how to use them with this helpful guide to French numbers vocabulary!

 

French Food Vocabulary

Whether you’re deciphering a menu in a French-speaking country or following the steps of your favorite French recipe, you’ll want to know French food and drink vocabulary. Here are some basics to get you started:

  • to eat — manger
  • to drink — boire

 

food in french style

 

  • the starter/appetizer — l’entrée
  • the main dish — le plat principal
  • the dessert — le dessert

 

  • the beef — la viande de bœuf
  • the pork — le porc
  • the chicken — la poule
  • the fish — le poisson
  • the vegetables — les légumes
  • the fruit — le fruit
  • the potato — la pomme de terre
  • the cheese — le fromage
  • the bread — le pain

 

  • the drink — la boisson
  • the water — l’eau
  • the juice — le jus
  • the coffee — le café
  • the wine — le vin
  • the beer — la bière
  • the tea — le thé

 

Want to be able to talk about all types of food and drink in French? Click to learn more French food vocabulary.

 

Animals In French

Whether you’re scared of spiders or a regular swimmer with the sharks, you can’t get by without knowing how to talk about animals in French. Check out this French animal vocabulary to help you talk about the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it:

  • the pet — l’animal domestique
  • the fur — le pelage
  • the farm animal — l’animal de la ferme
  • the sea creature — l’animal marin
  • the wild animal — l’animal sauvage
  • the fish — le poisson
  • the dog — le chien
  • the cat — le chat
  • the mouse — la souris
  • the rabbit — le lapin
  • the duck — le canard
  • the chicken — la poule
  • the cow — la vache
  • the pig — le porc
  • the horse — le cheval
  • the bird — l’oiseau
  • the bug — la bestiole
  • the penguin — le pingouin
  • the dolphin — le dauphin
  • the octopus — le poulpe
  • the bear — l’ours
  • the wolf — le loup
  • the snake — le serpent
  • the frog — la grenouille
  • the giraffe — la girafe

 

To get to know more names of the animals in French, click to learn more French animal vocabulary!

 

Parts Of The Body In French

From your head to your shoulders to your knees to your toes, your body is a part of your everyday experience. So there’s no question you should learn French body part vocabulary; it’s a no-brainer. (Cue the eye roll.) Check out some important words below:

 

french legs hanging off pier
 
  • the body part — la partie du corps
  • the body — le corps
  • the face — le visage

 

  • the foot — le pied
  • the arm — le bras
  • the hand — la main
  • the head — la tête
  • the finger — le doigt
  • the leg — la jambe
  • the knee — le genou
  • the neck — le cou
  • the back — le dos
  • the stomach — le ventre

 

  • the eyes — les yeux
  • the mouth — la bouche
  • the nose — le nez
  • the ear — l’oreille
  • the tooth — la dent

 

Learn all you need to know about the parts of the body in French. Click to learn more about French body part vocabulary!

 

Feelings And Emotions In French

It can be tough to talk about your feelings in your native language, let alone a foreign one. But you know how to talk about moods, feelings and emotions in French, you’ll have the right words to express yourself when you’re happy, sad, angry and everything in between. Here’s some essential French emotions vocabulary to get you started:

  • the emotion — l’émotion
  • the feeling — le sentiment
  • the mood — le humeur
  • happy — content
  • sad — triste
  • excited — excité
  • angry — en colère
  • depressed — déprimé
  • lonely — seul
  • satisfied — satisfait
  • proud — fier
  • upset — irrité
  • disappointed — déçu
  • nervous — nerveux
  • tired — fatigué

 

  • the joy — la joie
  • the love — l’amour
  • the hate — la haine
  • the hope — l’espoir
  • the sympathy — la compassion
  • the hunger — la faim
  • the thirst — la soif
  • the pain — la douleur
  • the fear — la peur

 

  • I like you. — Je t’aime bien.
  • I love you. — Je t’aime.
  • I am in a good mood today. — Je suis de bonne humeur aujord’hui.
  • I’m afraid. — J’ai peur.
  • Why are you sad? — Pourquoi tu es triste?
  • I am so unhappy. — Je suis tellement malheureux.

 

Click to learn more about French feelings and emotions vocabulary!

 

Hobbies In French

If you like to spend time doing something in your free time, you should learn how to talk about it! Filling your French vocabulary with expressions that let you speak passionately about your interests and hobbies will help you add some personal flair to your French repertoire. Here’s some French hobbies vocabulary you might want to know:

  • the book — le livre
  • the theater — le théâtre
  • the play — la pièce
  • the musical — la comédie musicale
  • the film — la pellicule

 

woman playing guitar
 
  • the painting — la peinture
  • the museum — le musée
  • the photography — la photographie
  • the gallery — la galerie
  • the photo — la photo
  • the drawing — le dessin

 

  • the music — la musique
  • the instrument — l’instrument
  • the guitar — la guitare
  • the piano — le piano

 

  • the game — le jeu
  • the puzzle — le casse-tête
  • the chess — les échecs
  • the card — la carte
  • the video game — le jeu vidéo
  • the board games — le jeu de société

 

  • the sport — le sport
  • the soccer — le football
  • the gymnasium — la salle de gym
  • the team — l’équipe

 

  • to play — jouer
  • to go shopping — faire les courses
  • to eat out — sortir manger
  • to sing — chanter
  • to read — lire
  • to dance — danser
  • to paint — peindre

 

  • What do you do in your free time? — Qu’est-ce que tu fais pendant ton temps libre ?
  • Do you have any hobbies? — Est-ce que tu as des hobbies ?
  • Do you play an instrument? — Tu joues d’un instrument ?
  • I like to listen to my music very loud. — J’aime beaucoup écouter la musique très fort.
  • Do you like going to the theater? — Tu aimes aller au théâtre ?
  • I learn dancing in a dance course. — J’apprends à danser dans un cours de danse.
  • I love going to restaurants. — J’aime bien aller au restaurant..

 

Want to know how to talk about all your different hobbies and free time in French? Click to learn more about French hobbies vocabulary!

 

French Travel Vocabulary

When you’re ready to take your French on the go on your next vacation around the world, you’ll need some French travel vocabulary to help get you there. Make the most of your next adventure with these vocabulary terms to talk about vacations, transportation and travel in French:

  • the plane — l’avion
  • the airport — l’aéroport
  • the terminal — le terminal
  • the luggage — les bagages
  • the hand luggage — le bagage à main
  • the departure — le décollage
  • the flight — le vol
  • the security check — le contrôle de sécurité
  • the connection — la correspondance
  • the gate — la porte d’embarquement

 

  • the public transportation — les transports en commun
  • the bus — le bus
  • the train — le train
  • the train station — la gare
  • the stop — l’arrêt
  • the ticket — le ticket
  • the subway — le métro
  • the passenger — le passager
  • the timetable — l’horaire

 

  • the car — la voiture
  • the driver — le conducteur (m) / la conductrice (f)
  • the bicycle — le vélo
  • the cyclist — le cycliste (m) / la cycliste (f)
  • the helmet — le casque
  • the driver’s license — le permis de conduire

 

  • to drive — conduire
  • to park — garer
  • to ride — aller
  • to land — atterrir
  • to check in — enregistrer
  • to board — embarquer

 

Be better equipped to travel in French by clicking to learn more about French travel and transportation vocabulary!

 

Weather In French

There’s no better way to small talk than to chat about the weather. So when you’re looking to shoot the breeze in French, look no further than French weather vocabulary. Here are some words and terms you should know to talk about the weather in French:

  • the weather — le temps
  • the weather forecast — la prévision météo
  • the climate — le climat
  • the degree — le degré
  • tropical — tropical
  • temperate — tempéré
  • cloudy — nuageux

 

french weather

 

  • the sunlight — la lumière du soleil
  • the rain — la pluie
  • the cloud — le nuage
  • the snow — la neige
  • the wind — le vent
  • the storm — la tempête
  • the thunder — le tonnerre
  • the lightning — l’éclair

 

  • the season — la saison
  • the spring — le printemps
  • the summer — l’été
  • the autumn — l’automne
  • the winter — l’hiver

 

  • the natural disaster — le catastrophe naturelle
  • the earthquake — le tremblement de terre
  • the tsunami — le tsunami
  • the flood — l’inondation

 

  • What is the weather like? — Quel temps fait-il ?
  • The sun is shining. — Le soleil brille.
  • The sky is cloudy. — Le ciel est couvert.
  • It stopped raining. — La pluie a cessé.
  • It was snowing all day. — Il a neigé toute la journée.

 

Click to learn more about French weather vocabulary!

   

Learning French Vocabulary With Babbel

woman on phone learning french vocabulary

Babbel makes learning and practicing French vocabulary easy, interactive and fun. Our French learning content is designed by language experts and teachers who know the best methods to build your French vocabulary skills and make sure they stick.

A variety of speaking, writing, reading and listening exercises reinforce all the elements of language learning so you’ll be ready to use the terms you’re learning in different situations.

Babbel lessons introduce new words and expressions in stages, focusing on vocabulary that applies in conversations with actual native speakers — not nonsensical or impractical words that you’ll never use. Almost every Babbel French lesson features a simulated dialogue that lets you use what you’ve learned in real-life contexts.

The Review feature brings back French vocabulary words from earlier lessons when you’re most at risk of forgetting them, helping you strengthen your word recall skills with interactive flashcard and spelling exercises.

Ready to get started learning French vocabulary? Try a free French lesson!

   

Check out our other learning topics about French:
Learn French
French Grammar
French Phrases
Best Way To Learn French
How To Speak French