A lot of French slang comes from “verlan,” meaning upside down spelled backwards. As confusing as it is at first, once you’ve understood that it’s just a word spelled backwards or with inverted syllables, it makes more sense. Here are a few examples:

  • Laisse béton (= laisse tomber): the French version of fuhgeddaboudit.
  • Reum (= mère): mother

The variant “sa reum” or “sa mère”, even “sa race” (race) can be added to a sentence to express delight or frustration, for instance: c’est trop bon sa mère ! = this is effing delicious!

  • Meuf / keum (= femme / mec) : girlfriend / boyfriend
  • Zarb / chelou (= bizarre / louche): weird / odd / strange
  • Teuf (= fête): party
  • Cheum (= moche): ugly
  • Ouf (= fou): crazy

Truc de ouf! is a commonly used expression to describe something that blows your mind.

A good part of French slang also comes from older expressions which are still popular. Here are a few:

  • Faire gaffe: to watch out / be careful
  • Bosser / taffer: to work
  • Nickel: great / awesome
  • Bouffer: to eat
  • Se casserse barrer : to leave / bail / bounce
  • Bagnole: car
  • Sympa (short for sympathique = friendly): cool / nice (for a person or an object / situation)

However, newer expressions tend to overshadow the more traditional ones (if there is such a thing as traditional slang) and are favored by younger generations. Here are some of them:

  • Trop stylé!: rad / awesome / great
  • Se la péter / se la raconter / se la racler: to show off
  • Kiffer: to love something or someone
  • Daron(s): father or parents
  • Ça déchire!: It rocks!
  • Prendre la tête: to drive someone crazy

Ça me prend la tête = It’s driving me crazy!

Bear in mind that this is just of sample of the myriad slang words that exist in French, not to mention all the ones which were created during the time it took you to get to the end of this article… and don’t get us started on written or regional slang (at least not yet!).

Feature image: Street art in Paris, © 2013-2015 Samuel-de-Deviant