Seven words and phrases from the south of France

Pitchouns, avoir la cagne, gâté - how many do you know?

Côte d'Azur coastline
You will be exposed to the cagnard (boiling sun) in the summer in the south
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The south of France is known for its strong regional accents which are generally well-liked and melodic but can be difficult for non-native speakers to understand.

There are also many regional expressions that are only used in Marseille, Nice or other areas in the south.

Here are seven of our favourites with their origins. They may help to impress a southerner - although you will be on your own for deciphering the accent!


To complain is referred to as maronner. It is derived from the Provençal word marouna, which means to grumble or sulk, and it is used most often in Marseille.

You will hear people say Arrête de maronner- ‘stop whingeing’.

An equivalent but perhaps less popular term is rouméguer. It comes from the latin ‘rumigare’, meaning ruminate in the sense of thinking deeply. Over time, the expression and pronunciation changed slightly.


Taken from the word boucaner which means to smoke food or tan skin, this term has a lot of meanings, such as to stink, to get into an argument with someone, to tell lies, and to cheat or scam someone. The expression is used in the south-west and in the south-east.

If your friend showed up wearing too much cologne, you could tell him T’emboucanes!, meaning that his smell is overpowering.

Alternatively, if someone told you Il m’a emboucané, it could mean that they were annoyed with someone or that they got scammed by someone.

Another, albeit less common, usage is to talk about a sky that has clouded over.

You will have to rely on context to tell the difference.


A pitchoun means a child. It is derived from the Occitan language with pitchoun meaning small. It is used as a term of affection.

Although it is used almost exclusively in the south, most French people would know what it means.

Specifically in Marseille, a pitchoun might be referred to as a minot as well.


This term means a person who is very dear to you, a close friend or family member and it is very popular among young people, particularly in Marseille.

Originally, gâté was used in the south-west of France as a word for cuddle. It also means spoiled in the context of spoiling a child. Un enfant gâté is a spoilt brat.

However, French rapper SCH popularised gâté(e) to mean a loved one and it was added to the 2022 edition of the Petit Robert dictionary.

Avoir la cagne

This expression means to feel very lazy and is most commonly employed in the south-west, notably Toulouse. For example, you may ask your friend if they cleaned the house: Non, j’ai eu la cagne.

It may be linked to the word cagnard, which refers to a strong sun beating down on a summer’s day.


This term means something that is sticky. For example, when the sun makes people sweat in summer and two friends greet each other with a kiss on each cheek (la bise), they might exclaim Ca pégue! to say that their cheeks are sticking together.

Read more: Greeting kisses in France: 5 regional expressions

It comes from the Occitan word pego which means pitch glue, a glue usually made from tar or resin. Shepherds used it in the past to mark their sheep. It is primarily used in the south-east of France.


Chasper is derived from the Provençal dialect of the Occitan language. It means to touch or to feel with your hand, although it can also be used with feet: you may chaspe the sand on the beach for example.

It is often used in the context of touching or caressing your partner or someone you are romantically interested in as a sign of affection but a person can chaspe anything, such as dough, cloth, fruits, etc. Chasper is a popular term in Marseille.

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