French words that seem to come from the English language

There are some French words I find particularly amusing and difficult for French learners of English – words that seem to come from the English language, but which actually do not even exist in English or are used in a completely different way! For instance, a French person could easily believe that a tracksuit is a “jogging” in English, or that the word dealer only means drug-dealer. Indeed, it is not simple; many English words have been introduced in the French language and have not kept their original English meaning.

Jogging
The French word “jogging” means a tracksuit. Thus, do not be surprised if a French person uses this word as a noun and asks you where you bought your “jogging”!

Dealer
In French, “un dealer” means a drug-dealer. So if a French person looks surprised if you tell them you know a good dealer, remind them of the English meaning 🙂

Parking
« Un parking » in French is a car park, or parking lot, a place where to park one’s car. Therefore, a French person saying there is a big parking in front of the supermarket just means there is a lot of room to park your car.

Camping
The noun « camping » in French means a campsite. To go camping is translated by “faire du camping”.

Lifting
This is the French word for a face-lift. So if someone just had a face-lift, you will use “se faire faire un lifting” in French.

Smoking
In French, the word smoking has nothing to do with smoke or cigarettes. Indeed, a French « smoking » is a dinner jacket.

Babyfoot
This word definitely sounds English to the French ear, and there are many French people who believe the English really use it. As you may have guessed, it is the word for table football!

[Français]

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9 thoughts on “French words that seem to come from the English language”

  1. This situation exists in English as well. For example, the word “entrepreneur” as used in North America means an independent business person, a business maverick and not a contractor.

    Also found a menu item which really puzzled me: Salmon and leek fondue. It turned out to be grilled salmon served with a fondue of leeks i.e. braised leeks. French culinary sources on the Internet mention fondue de poireaux, fondue de fenouil. I was able to explain this to the restaurant owner who had used the expression so they switched to the descriptive “creamed leek”!

    As they say, in translation, the context is the most important thing to consider.

  2. Parking, camping and smoking have the same meaning in Dutch as in French. And there are many other confusing words when you look at those three languages. Just an example: the French ‘conducteur’ is a ‘train driver’ in English, but a ‘machinist’ in Dutch. Dutch also has a ‘conducteur’, which is a ‘train conductor’ in English, but a ‘contrôleur’ in French. The English ‘conductor’ also has another meaning, ‘dirigent’ in Dutch and ‘chef d’orchestre’ in French. A ‘dirigeant’ in French, though, is a ‘leader’ or ‘top manager’ in English and a ‘leider’ or ‘topmanager’ in Dutch.

    The French ‘bureau’ means ‘office’, while the Dutch ‘bureau’ is a desk. The English ‘bureau’ is an organisation (as in FBI). And the list goes on almost endlessly…

  3. An extremely amusing misunderstanding arose when a Dutch minister of Economic Affairs addressed a gathering of high American business professionals and declared that the Netherlands are a nation of undertakers. You guess what he meant to say.

  4. They don’t seem, they really come from the english language… However, their adaptation brought a different meaning so we use the expression “faux-amis” (false cognates).

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