• bjdemiranda

French words and expressions used in English

The history of English is complex and deeply intertwined with its neighboring European languages. While German and Italian have certainly influenced English, today I want to talk about French loanwords and expressions that are very common in everyday English speech. Many of these words are even used in Portuguese!


Cliché: something that is overused, no lacks originality or is very predictable.

Déjà vu: the feeling that one has already experienced the present situation. While there are many possible explanations for what causes this sensation, scientists don't know for sure. The opposite also exists, a jamais vu is when the observer does not recognize a familiar situation despite knowing they've experienced it before.

Entrepreneur: a person who starts a business or businesses and takes on greater financial risk in doing so, um empreendedor. And the act of being an entrepreneur is called "entrepreneurship".

En route: on the way

Je ne sais quoi: literally translates to "I don't know what", a phrase used to describe a quality that is special but hard to put into words. It is often preceeded by "a certain" e.g. I don't know what I liked about her so much, she has a certain je ne sais quoi.

RSVP (respondez s'il vous plaît): literally translates to "please respond", this phrase is used together with formal invitations to require confirmation of the guests. Adding an RSVP to an invitation means, "please let me know if you're going to come".

Pardon my French: okay so this is not a French expression but I thought I'd include because I really like this idiom! Pardon my French is used by people to excuse themselves for having used profanity, it is often used sarcastically.