French Swear Words: My 10 Favorites

by Julie Blakley on March 4, 2011

by Julie Blakley | March 4th, 2011  

For those who learned French in the classroom, I’m guessing the teacher was not willing (or able) to teach students how to properly and thoroughly cuss in French. So, in that vein, here are some of my very favorite French curses. These are the things you hear spilling out of cab driver’s mouths, accidentally being shouted by a grandmother when she drops the milk, or accompanied by grimaced faces and occasional hand gestures in the streets of Paris.

Now, before you go around dropping the French equivalent of the F bomb on your next trip, keep in mind that language plays an immensely important role in French culture. In fact, being articulate and well spoken is considered to be an extremely valuable asset and characteristic, and while the French also like to curse a lot, the term most often associated with curse words is “unrefined.” However, in the right place, with the right people, you can impress your French friends (and make them giggle) by appropriately using these very useful and colorful curses.

Julie’s 10 Favorite French Swear Words

1. Merde!(maird)

This translates quite literally as “shit.” You’ll definitely hear “merde” used in France in as wide of a context as “shit” in English. Sometimes, for extra emphasis, you’ll hear people say “MAIR-duuuhhhh” instead of the more accurate “maird”.

2. Putain!/Pute!(Poo-TAHN)/(poote)

This word packs a serious punch, so use it with caution (and maybe not in mixed company). Putain literally translates as “whore,” but tends to be used more like the word “fuck” in English. Not only can it be used as an emotional reaction to something, like “Fuck!” in English, you can also direct it at someone in particular, “ça pute” (that whore). People joke that the word “fuck” can be used as every part of speech in English, and in French, putain functions much the same way.

3. Chiant/ça me fait chier(CHI-ant)/(sa meh fey CHIay)

This word is most commonly used in the context of “ça me fait chier,” which translates as a more vulgar version of “that pisses me off.”

4. Salope! (sal-OPE)

You’ll most likely be directing this one at someone in particular, rather than as an angry expletive shouted in response to something. It translates as “bitch,” and is used pretty much exactly the same way the word is used in English. Also, like in English, you can incorporate this word into a a phrase like “fils de salope” (son of a bitch).

*salop (pronounced sal-OH) is the masculine version

5. Foutre/ Je m’en fou (FOO-truh)/(Juh men foo)

Again, although you may hear this dropped around a lot, use it with caution as “foutre” is the verb for “to fuck.” You’ll most often hear this in the phrase “je m’en fou,” which essentially means “I don’t give a fuck.” This also became one of my favorite phrases while I was living in Pairs and it was another one that would make my grande tante (great aunt) cringe when it slipped out at home.

6. Con/conasse/connard (cohn)/(con-ASS)/(con-ARD)

This is often used as “ass” in French, though it is also sometimes translated as a milder “idiot.” There is a famous movie in French titled “Le Dîner des Cons,” which is about a group of Parisian businessmen who each bring a “con,” or an idiot, to dinner and then the favorite “con” is chosen at the end (i.e. the guy who makes the biggest fool of himself). If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was remade in America as “Dinner for Shmucks” with Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd.

7. Nique ta mere! (neek tah mare)

Watch out for this curse, as it literally translates as “fuck your mother.” This phrase is not only extremely vulgar, but also very offensive and should be reserved for situations when only the most extreme curse is needed.

8. Ta Gueule! (ta-GOOL)

This is just about the rudest way possible of telling someone to shut up. While it does not really have an exact equivalent or translation in English, it’s kind of like saying “shut the fuck up,” or “shut your trap.” You’ll definitely hear this in banter among friends, but it can also be used in a really insulting way.

9. Casse-toi! (kass-twah)

This French curse became the center of a French controversy when President Sarkozy was caught saying this to a French citizen who had refused to shake his hand at an agricultural fair in France. This insult is kind of like a very rude way of saying “bugger off,” or maybe even “fuck off.” Combined with another expletive (like “con”), it can actually pack quite a powerful punch.

10. C’est des conneries! (Say-day-KOHN-ree)

Clearly this curse is related to #6 on this list, and can be translated best as “this is bullshit.” I particularly enjoy this phrase and find it very useful in my daily life. I also like to throw in extra words for emphasis like “C’est vraiment des conneries!” (That is REALLY bullshit).

>>Check out some of our Paris resident’s essential French swear words, too.

So, those are my favorite French swear words and cusses. You may have your own colorful expletives. What’s your favorite way to swear in French?

Also, check out these juicy posts to see what it’s like to live in France:

{ 73 comments }

ChrisCaboose November 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm
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Marvelous! I live in a place where there are a lot of French speaking people, and considering I have been learning French for 9 years but still didn’t know a lot of the swear words , now I will understand even better!
Sorry if that made no sense, using iPhone… Ça m’énerve !

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caroline December 1, 2009 at 9:32 am
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wtf! you only said the french swear words from france! what about all the marvelous quebec ones? maudit batard tabarnak esti de caliss de marde……

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lol December 1, 2009 at 8:36 pm
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Got the pronounciations wrong.

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jdjdj December 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm
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OMG!!!!! now I can cuss in french class!!!

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metin2 yang December 4, 2009 at 1:07 am
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metin2 yang
metin2 yang

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Um December 6, 2009 at 8:14 pm
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A few corrections:
#3) “Ça” is not spelled “ca” (though the “ç” can be difficult to render on some keyboards). Also the verb “chier” literally means “to shit,” so “ça me fait chier” means “it makes me shit” (you can also use this verb to mean “it bores me,” etc.)
#4) The masculine form of “salope” is spelled “salaud.”
#5) The correct conjucation would be “Je m’en fous.”
#6) The feminine of “con” is “conne,” and historically this term (con) meant “cunt.” Thus the verb “déconner” (plaisanter, to joke) literally meant to remove oneself from someone’s vagina etc.

Additionally your pronunciations are atrocious.

That said I do like the idea.

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Poupi December 12, 2009 at 7:22 am
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Stumbled !

‘Son of a bitch’ = ‘Fils de pute’ , and not ‘Fils de salope’ (which is less vulgar)

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Simone December 17, 2009 at 7:15 am
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France is on my travel list. I hope that I will go there in 2010 :D .

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amjad zia mughal December 25, 2009 at 12:57 am
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thank you all .i am planning to visit my fav city. HA ha ha now i can understand taxi drivers ,

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John January 10, 2010 at 2:10 am
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How about the milder one like…Vous’ette une salaud prix. You are a dirty dog?

We used to make up our own french words and expressions like…merde oiseau. “shit bird”

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timmy January 19, 2010 at 2:50 am
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what about tabarnack?!?!?

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Miriam January 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm
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Ta Gueule! (THAI-gull) -> this is a shortening of “ferme ta gueule” where “gueule” is the french variation of an _animal’s_ mouth – not a human. this isn’t just “shut up” in the standard american usage. this is “shut your snout” or “shut your face” but it’s more insulting than just “shut your mouth.” the animal connotation is the especially insulting part.

so there are three levels …

tais toi …shut up (average american equivalent)
ferme ta bouche … shut your mouth (normal, insulting but not so bad)
ferme ta gueule … shut your trap/snout/face (the most insulting version)

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Robocop January 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm
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” con ” is not referering to the ass but to the female genitalia, the best translation imo is ” cunt “.

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Mr Egg January 27, 2010 at 8:07 am
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French here. You’ve got some mistakes here and there, but I’m just here to share with you my favorite swear word : “Catin”. It’s an equivalent of the english “whore”, but in a more formal way, very classy to use and only mildly insulting.

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Chitwan national park February 1, 2010 at 1:53 am
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my favorite is Salope! (SAL-up) and i dont like Nique ta mere!. any way thanks for sharing

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james February 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm
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tres bien

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vanessa February 11, 2010 at 8:45 pm
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love it! now i can tell my gtt (gate way to technolegy) teacher some pretty dirty things and i can also tell this little annoying miget to ta gueule! and i can impress TYLER;) LUV U TYLER!

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ddd February 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm
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these are the bad words of Quebec i think

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ddd February 17, 2010 at 10:38 pm
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these are the bad words in Quebec i think

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Beer Drinker March 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm
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This is awesome. My 9th grade French Text Book used Zut!, or at least I think that was the word.

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Muhammad Amirul Ismail Mannheim March 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm
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cool haha

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Claire April 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm
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i’ve been listening to some french rap, there’s a cus like “baisse les gens” meaning “fuck the people”, i probably have spelt it wrong, does anyone know how to spell it?

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Dana April 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm
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Now go AWAY before I taunt you a second time! HA! (This is all I could think about after reading some of the long, strung-together insults listed in the comments… )

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