How to Swear In French – Essential Curse Words & Phrases

french language map
French speaking regions (source: Wikipedia

Whether you’re learning French or are simply tired of the pale excuses for curse words contained in the English language, you’ll be glad to know that French swear words are many, varied, and wonderfully expressive.

Having lived in France for about 6 months, I got acquainted with many of the choiciest, most sumptuous morcels. The French don’t just do cheese and wine right, they’re got cursing and swearing down to a science as well.

A nice thing about “bad ” French words is they’re often employed in the same ways we would their English counterparts. The main challenge is to not let the sometimes-strange literal translations mislead you.

Without further ado, here are the most useful:

1. Merde – Shit

Pronounced kind of like MEH-rd, but remember that the French “r” is quite unlike the English one. Often used as a stand alone curse where in English we’d say “shit” or “damn”. Even the emotion and inflection is similar.

Also try: C’est de la merde, ce truc. Roughly: This shit sucks!

2. Putain/Pute – Fuck (or “Whore”)

Pronounced either like poo-TAWN or poote, though you may hear it as p’tawn with the “oo” sound disappearing. Very nice. Again the pronunciation is tough to show in English, as you’ve got the unique French “u” and a nasal vowel at the end.

Anyway, this is a super useful word that literally means “whore” but is used like the English “fuck.” In any case an f-bomb applies in English, you can drop this one in French, making it a versatile little pute.

Also tryPutain de merde – fucking shit! Or even: Putain de bordel de merde – which seems to translate literally like “shitty whorehouse slut” but is used like “holy motherfucking shit.” Having fun yet?

3. Salope – Bitch

Pronounced sa-LOP. The first French curse on our list that’s only directed at people. This one means “bitch” and is used like it’s English counterpart.

Also trysaloperie – like the English “shit”.

4. Ça me fait chier – That pisses me off (strong!)

Pronunciation: sa muh fey SH-YAY

Roughly equivalent to “this sucks”, but rather flexible. “Chier” literally means shit. The perfect go-to when something really annoying happens.

Also tryC’est chiant (say she-YAWNT) – This is shit!

5. Je m’en fou – I don’t give a fuck

Pronounced: Zhe mawn FOO (FOO-truh)

This one is tricky. It may seem very common, but is very strong and should be used with a bit of disgression. “Fou” comes from the verb “foutre”, meaning “to fuck”.

Also try: Va te faire foutre – Go fuck yourself.

6. Con – Idiot


This one has a ton of variants ranging from mild to extreme. The simplest being “c’est con” meaning “that’s stupid” or even something like a sympathetic “that’s too bad.”

Also try:

T’es con – You’re an idiot

C’est des conneries – This is bullshit

Connard/connasse – Idiot

7. Ta Gueule! – Shut [the fuck] up!

Pronunciation: ta-GUHL

Literally “your mouth” but used as the strongest form of shut up. Can be used lightly between friends, or harshly – best exercise discretion at first.

8. Casse-toi – Fuck off

Pronunciation: kass-tawh

Literally like “break yourself”, use it when you’re being harrassed and want to tell people to go away. Just keep in mind that swearing at aggressive strangers isn’t a recipe for a happy vacation.

9. Nique ta mere!

Pronunciation: neek tah mare

This is a heavyweight, and rather more rare than everything we’ve covered thus far. Literally, it means “fuck your mother”. Can you imagine saying that to someone in English? Exactly. So choose wisely where to use it with French speakers (other than when you’re ability to show off your swearing prowess).

10. C’est quoi ce bordel ? – What the fuck [is this]?

Bordel = whorehouse, and is often used in the sense of “a mess”. You can basically use this phrase whenever you’re pissed off, whenever someone annoys you, or when you’d say “what the hell is this/what the hell’s going on” in English.

Learned them all? Then head back on over to the Language Hacking HQ for more useful tips, tricks, and guides.


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AJ Walton

AJ Walton will show you how to travel the world on your budget, how to make money on the road, and why you don't have to live the way others expect. Get the free guide: 101 Ways To Make Money While Traveling

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