In English, when we get angry we might say something like "damn it" or "hell" – or maybe something stronger. Similarly, in the French language, there is a whole different set of curse words that people use to let off some steam.
These words are often much more graphic and intense than what we're used to in English, and can be quite shocking to hear. But despite their vulgarity, these words can also be quite funny and inventive. Moreover, many French people are proud of this part of their language – and you can see that, for example, in French movies, as many TV-channels don’t censor the more colorful words.
So, if you want to become fluent in the French language, understanding some popular French words is a necessity. Knowing them will allow you to understand a whole new part of French culture – and thus boost your knowledge of French.
Are you ready? We’ve prepared a list of some of the most common French curse words with appropriate English translation. Check them out – and if you're ever in a bind for words to express your frustration in French, you can use one or more of these phrases. Of course, be careful when you use these words, they’re spicy.
10 Most Popular French Swear Words
Just like in English, there are a few of these words that people use more than others. Here are the ten most popular:
Merde is one of the most popular French swear words, and it can be used in a number of situations. It is equivalent to the English word "shit", and is used to express frustration or anger. This is probably the first curse word people get to know when learning French, and it's really versatile.
Just like in English, this French curse word can be used alone, and it fits well into so many sentences, which is why it’s many people’s favorite. Moreover, there are many colorful expressions you can use it in, such as
être dans la merde
be up shit’s creek
se foutre dans la merde
literally to put yourself in the shit, it mean to get it all wrong
Also, in French culture, you can use “merde” the same way you’d say “break a leg” in English – to wish somebody luck.
The word "putain" is another popular French swear word, and it is equivalent to the English word "fuck". It is used to express anger, frustration, or even excitement, and can be very versatile.
Just like English speakers love using the F-word, French people use “putain” to express the whole range of emotions when the situation allows (and sometimes even when it doesn’t).
For example, if you're stuck in traffic and get angry, you might say
putain de bouchon!
fuck this traffic jam!
And if you're excited about something, you might say
putain, c'est génial!
fuck, that's genious!
The word "bordel" closes our top 3 of the most popular French swear words. It is used to express frustration or anger in a similar way to the word "putain".
It is equivalent to the English word "fuck", and is used to describe something that is dirty or messed up.
For example, if you see someone littering, you might say
what a mess!
Putain de merde / Bordel de merde / Putain de bordel de merde
These are some of the most common combinations of the top 3 French curse words, and they are used to express frustration or anger in a very intense way. All of them can be used in a number of situations, for example, if you drop something important, something bad happens, or someone does something that really pisses you off.
They can be translated as 'for fuck's sake', 'goddammit' or 'bloody hell', and the more words you use in the combination, the more emotions you show – for example, “putain de bordel de merde” shows the highest level of frustration or anger.
The word "zut" is one of the most popular French swear words, and it can be used in a number of situations. It is equivalent to the English word "damn", and is used to express frustration or anger.
For example, if you spill your coffee on the floor, you might say
The French swear words "saloud” and “salope" are equivalent to the English words "bastard" and "bitch," respectively. They are used to express anger or frustration, and are not a part of polite language by any means.
Its usage is pretty straightforward – you can use it in pretty much any situation where you would use the English one or to express that someone is a jerk. If you are looking for less vulgar language, you can use imbécile instead.
This French insult means “asshole,” and as you might have thought, it is pretty vulgar. Be careful when using this bad word – but if you do, remember to use the correct form. After all, in French, all nouns have gender and number, and thus need to agree with the thing or person they represent.
Here, we have three forms of one word: connard is used for men, connasse – for women, and con is a shortened version that can be used for both.
7. Ta gueule!
"Ta gueule!" or “ferme ta gueule” is a very popular French swear word that is equivalent to the English expression "shut up". It’s not very nice, though – literally translated, it means “shut your animal face” or “shut the hell up.”
It is used to tell someone to stop talking, or to be quiet, but if you want to use a less vulgar word, you can say tais-toi (be quiet) instead.
8. Je m’en fous
"Je m’en fous" is a popular French expression that means "I don't care". It can be used to show that you're not interested in something, or to tell someone that you don't care about their opinion. Be careful when using it though – it is one of the vulgar words that you should save for only the most annoying situations.
It's equivalent to the English phrase “I don’t give a fuck,” and is usually used when you’re really pissed off.
9. Je m’en fiche
"Je m’en fiche" is a very popular French curse phrase and is a lighter equivalent of “Je m’en fous." It literally means “I don’t give a damn”, and can be used to show that you don’t care about something or someone.
For example, if your friend tells you a story that you don’t really care about, you might say "je m'en fiche" in response. Or, if someone asks you something and you don’t want to do it, you can also say "je m'en fiche". Not the nicest behavior, but it can be necessary sometimes.
10. Va te faire foutre
"Va te faire foutre" (or, less often, va te faire enculer) is another common French curse phrase that is equivalent to the English expression "go fuck yourself". It's super vulgar, though – literally translated, it means “go masturbate.”
It can be used in a number of situations, but is most commonly used when someone is angry or frustrated. For example, if you’re being hit on at a bar or cut off in traffic, you might say "va te faire foutre" in response.
Other French Curse Words That Are Somewhat Acceptable for Use
Of course, these are not the only bad words a French person would use if the situation calls for them. Here are a few alternative phrases you can use around more polite company, but don’t get too crazy with it.
- Oh la vache! – Holy cow!
- Mon dieu! – my God!
- Sacré Dieu! – Holy God! (this old phrase dates back to the Middle ages, but is rarely used today)
- ça me saoûle – That annoys me (literal translation is “it gets me drunk”)
- ça me fait chier – That pisses me off. (a little more insulting than the previous one)
- Bon sang! – Good grief! / Good heavens! / For heaven’s sake! (very old-fashioned)
- C’est naze – It sucks
- Cul – Ass
- Dégage! – Piss off!
- C’est des conneries! – This is bullshit!
- Branleur – Wanker (A pretty vulgar one, use with caution)
Very Vulgar French Swear Words
- Casse-toi! – Fuck off!
- Fils de pute – Son of a bitch
- Enculer – To fuck (Bugger in UK)
- Enculé [masculine] / Enculée [feminine] – asshole / cocksucker
- Enculé de ta mere – mother fucker (this is probably the most vulgar French word that exists.)
- Nique ta mere! – fuck your mother! (a slight variation of the phrase above)
Final Thoughts on French Swear Words
Despite being one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world today, there is still plenty about French that remains shrouded in mystery for native speakers as well as learners alike.
One such area is swear words – those expressive phrases which are not considered appropriate for polite conversation but nonetheless come up time after time on TV shows or movies from France (or Quebec), including 'merde', 'merdouille', 'putain'... and those are just the milder ones.
While it's true that French curse words can be quite graphic and intense, they can also be funny and inventive – which might explain why they're so popular in French media. So if you're ever feeling frustré, learn French swear words to let off some steam. Just don't be surprised if you get a few raised eyebrows in return.