9 ‘English’ words in French that do not exist in English

We also look at ‘borrowed’ English words that have a different meaning than in English

The French language has adopted many words from English and made them its own
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English and French are two languages that, like their people, have been closely linked for centuries.

Although the origins of the English language have Germanic roots, the Norman conquest of 1066 means a high percentage of words have a French origin, or have been influenced by those across the Channel. 

In the same vein, more and more English words have been brought into the French language, particularly during the 20th century with the rise of English as a ‘global language’.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the borrowed words are always used in the same way as in the language they originally come from.

In French you may hear ‘anglicisms’ – often relating to work or business – that do not mean the same thing, and may cause confusion for native speakers in a meeting or professional setting.

In addition, there are also English-inspired words that are part of everyday French conversations that do not even exist in English.

How many of these have you heard used? 

L’afterwork

While afterwork does make sense in English, in French the term has a specific use.

It refers to sharing a drink with colleagues after finishing work, rather than simply the general period after the work day is finished. 

Thursday is typically a day where workers go for an afterwork. 

Footing 

Le footing is French for jogging, coming from the English word ‘foot’.

The suffix of ‘ing’ is found in many anglicised words in French, although unlike in English – where it is often used to note a verb is ‘happening’ at this moment – it can be used for nouns too.

More words on this list have the -ing suffix.

It is unclear why ‘footing’ entered the French language, as it is not uncommon to hear jogging used as well. 

The French you learn at school is often not what you hear: 5 examples

Zapping 

Le zapping refers to the idea of switching between TV channels quickly, and does not have the connotations of an electric shock (zap) as it does in English.

It is thought to have been integrated into the French language in the 1940s and comes from the onomatopoeic sound in English associated with certain weapons. 

Zapper is also a verb in French which means to channel surf but can also mean to forget something. 

Baby-foot

The French language took two English words and put them together to create baby-foot, which is our equivalent of table football.

You might hear your colleagues ask you if you want to play some baby-foot during the afterwork, if you are in a trendy bar.

Talkie-walkie 

It is not hard to guess what a talkie-walkie is: a walkie-talkie in English. However, why the words have been swapped around in the French version remains a mystery.

Some people have theorised it may be because talkie-walkie is easier for French people to say, while others suggest it was something simply lost in translation. 

Relooking

Un relooking is the French term for a makeover. It is used when talking about changing the appearance or style of a person, and relooker can also be used as a verb.

It is thought the term entered the French language around 1985 via the fashion world and led to the hybrid term relookage, which means a rebranding.

Le play-back

When you hear a French person talk about le play-back, this refers to lip syncing or miming along to a song.

If they are just singing badly, however, they may use the term faire du yaourt, which you can learn about below. 

Read more: 10 French words and phrases that are untranslatable in English

Planning 

While planning is a word we use in English, it does not exist as a noun like it does in French but rather as a verb (to plan). 

Le planning or un planning talks about someone’s diary, calendar or schedule.

Le brushing

When you hear a French person talk about un brushing, they are most likely referring to a blow-dry rather than brushing their hair. 

While we can use the word brushing in English, in French it has been adopted as a noun. 

Read more: Map of French accents: Which do you prefer?