Globally synonymous with fine wines, alluring landscapes, beautiful beaches, and the world’s fashion capital, France easily beats your preferences as the perfect holiday destination. As it turns out, the French language has some fine insults, too, as the post shows. But I have to warn you, using insults or swear words in any language, including French, often requires discretion. It’s a great skill for those who have mastered the art of communication.
I must also note that this piece is not to advise you, readers, to blatantly swear at random strangers (that would be very uncool) in French. However, you will definitely hear some of these words in daily life, and if you happen to decide to use them in a situation that genuinely warrants them, it is important to know the intensity the word you’re saying carries.
Usually, insults do not translate exactly and a phrase or word that is only slightly offensive in English can be the strong alternative in French, and vice versa. Essentially, you need to know if the insult you decide to use will just express your views about someone in an inoffensive way or will be too nuclear for them to ever great you again.
So Here Are Some of the Most Popular French Insults:
Putain has to be the most used and richest French insult. This word is used to express a wide range of emotions from dissatisfaction, anger, to surprise. It is quite like f*ck in English, even though it literally translates to whore. Putain can also be used to overstate one’s astonishment. The word can have a strong punch, so I advise that you use it with caution. It can also be hurled at someone, for example; Ca pute meaning that whore. In France, people joke that putain can be used anyhow just as fuck is flexible in English.
And in French, the word is usually used with the interjection oh i.e. Oh putain. The meaning of the word also depends on how it is pronounced. For example, saying it slowly makes it more emphatic.
Alternatively, to avoid being vulgar, you can replace putain with punaise which means bug, or purée which means (mashed potato). This is in the same way you say frickin’ in English when you don’t want to drop the f-bomb.
These words are widely popular in French and are used to refer to someone as a fool, stupid, or mean. Conne is the feminine of con. As an example, Ce garcon est tellement con! Meaning that boy is so fucking stupid! There is a popular French film titled Le Diner des Cons. It’s about a group of businessmen who each brought a con or an idiot to dinner. In the end, the favorite con is selected.
Both words can also mean too bad or what a shame. But to avoid vulgarity, you can replace con/cone with bête which means silly. Ah, c’est bête! Meaning Oh, that’s silly! If don’t already know, the word connard is a very vulgar version of con.
I bet that you will most likely be hurling this one at a particular person, rather than as an angry word shouted in response to an event that just happened. Salope is the French equivalent of cunt. Meanwhile, salaud is the masculine version of the word. But it is interesting to know that the exact meaning of the words does not exist in English. Cunt can be used for guys too, and it can also be used as whore or bitch. Just like in English, you can add other words like fils de salope, meaning son of a bitch.
Va te faire foutre
This one is a hardcore insult that means fuck you or up yours. It is very vulgar with a sexual connotation as it has in English. Va te faire foutre can also be said with the bras d’honneur offensive gesture where the left arm is raised up and out while the index and middle finger are extended. As the right hand is open, the left bicep is slapped just above the elbow. In the course of doing these, the left forearm is raised to 90 degrees.
Va te faire enculer!
Quite vulgar like the last one, va te faire enculer translates to go fuck yourself! It can also be used with the bras d’honnerur gesture. This insult is more used in the southern part of France like in Marseille. Saying enculer works perfectly too to spare you yelling the entire expression.
T’as pas de coquilles!
This translates to you don’t have the balls in English. Couilles means balls, literally. And you can also say couillon which means small testicles. This insult is often said to men.
Dumbass, as it is translated in English, is one of the most used insults in French. It is a milder insult in the category of words used to describe someone who is perceived to be a stupid person.
Espece de rate
This is a painful one to be called. It is used to call someone a failure in life. The verb rater can be used when you miss something by being punctual. So, you can rater stuff like a train, bus, or flight. The word is also used when people fail in business or finance. The espece de part is a really useful way to start an insult. Many of the insults I’ve mentioned so far can be used with it. E.g. Espece de sans coquilles and Espece de conard.
Some might say that this doesn’t pass as an insult in French. But let’s examine the words. In a language like French, a particular word can apply to a group and not applicable to another even though they literally mean the same thing. For example, there is a specific word for mouth when we are referring to a person and there is a different word for mouth when referring to an animal.
For a person, it is la bouche, while it is la gueule for animals. In the second part of the insult, you have to know that French has two types of you: the familiar and the plural or polite. When you go for the familiar where you should use the polite, and when you go for the animal mouth where you should use the human mouth, you make a serious insult. Ta gueule means your (familiar) mouth (of an animal). The expression is used to say shut up rudely. To sound less vulgar an expression like votre bouche would have been perfect but there is no expression as such.
T’es chiant is a mild insult that means you are annoying. It is so mild that you can say it to children.
Sac a Merde
In English, it means a bag of shit. Sac a Merde is a common expression you must have heard on French TV shows or comedy skits. There is even a short film with the same title.
Tete de noeud
Literally mean knot head, tete de noeud is a popular French insult that is used to refer to a person as a dickhead. This can be said to your pals, or to a driver who is refusing to make way for you.
Plouc means country bumpkin. The source of this word can be traced to plou, a Breton word that means regional jurisdiction or parish. If you have seen Emily in Paris on Netflix, then you must hear plouc. When Emily arrived at her new job in the French capital, she is referred to as plouc by her French co-workers.
>>Also Read: Most Popular and Offensive French Swear Words
Most Used French Insults – Final Thoughts
These expressions are some of the most used. Some are hilarious and mild while some are outright hardcore and offensive. However, what they can all do is to teach you about the rich culture of the French. And as I have advised earlier, if you must, know when to use insults. Ensure that you know what intensity they convey in any given circumstance. It is easier to breeze into trouble in a foreign language than it is to whisk out of it. Don’t forget.