Home Education Language Learning 18 beautiful French words that have no English equivalent
Last update on June 04, 2021

Everyone can find use for these beautiful French words, which perfectly explain those inexplicable emotions that no English word can’t describe.

There are some emotions that only these beautiful French words can aptly explain.


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Sortable is the adjective to use for family members and friends that you can take out without fear of being embarrassed.


This is the perfect excuse for when you don’t want to be specific for being late; instead, you just had an ‘unexpected last-minute change of plans’.

L’esprit d’escalier

That irritating moment when you come up with the perfect witty comeback but only too late is known as ’staircase wit’, reportedly coined by 18th-century philosopher Diderot who found he could only think of suitable retorts after walking away from an argument, literally down the stairs.


Another Baudelarian term, this French word describes the sensation that comes from a profound feeling of dissatisfaction and discouragement.


The feeling of dépaysement that arises from not being in your home country, in essence ‘un-country-ing’, is what might be described as similar to homesickness but refers more to the strangeness and disorientation of feeling foreign and encountering new things in another country (perhaps from culture shock), like a ‘fish out of water’.

L’appel du vide

‘The call of the void’, as this expression is literally translated but feel like a traveler’s word, but in fact refers to the intrinsic urge to jump from high places.

La douleur exquise

This is the ‘exquisite pain’ that one feels from unrequited love. Is this a fact to argue that French words are romantic?


Flâner is the art of wandering a city’s streets with no goal or final destination but for the pleasure of soaking up the ambience, turning pedestrians into flâneurs (or for a woman, flâneuse), a word you will see in the works of French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire when describing Paris.


The happiness of meeting someone after a very long time.


One of the most useful French words you’ll commonly hear is voila, literally meaning ‘there it is’, while you can use voici for ‘here it is’.


A verb to describe making the most of a situation.


‘To yoghurt’ may be the literal translation but it’s a word that refers to the act of talking in another language – and not very well – or using fake words. Its common usage is to refer to something that appears an imitation or insincere, such as someone pretending to know the words of a song. If you see a native French fudging their way through English words, it would be an attempt ‘to sing through yogurt’, or chanter en yaourt.


You’re so crazy you’ve been hit on the head! This French word is hybrid blend of frapper (to hit) and dingue (crazy).


Are you an oddball or eccentric person? Or a scatterbrain who engages in loufoquerie (craziness)? This is an adjective that describes you.


Chaos, confusion, pandémonium; anything that causes a general disturbance, taken from the Biblical Hebrew word to describe the formless earth state before God.


Râler is somewhere in between whining and complaining but this is one of those French words that developed into an elegant national pastime, where râler is more how the French continually express their ongoing dissatisfaction with the world.


If you fake puff or don’t take a lungful of a cigarette, that would be the literal translation of ‘crapoter’ – but you would use it to refer to a pretender or fake person.