French Auction Sales Vocabulary 🧑‍⚖️

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Learn the French auction house vocabulary, discover “Drouot”, the world’s oldest public auction house.

Let’s start by going over the French auction sales terms.

1 – French Auction Vocabulary List

  1. Une salle des ventes – auction house
  2. Une vente aux enchères – auction sale
  3. Les enchères (f) – auctions
  4. Le/la commissaire priseur – auctioneer
  5. Le/la commissionnaire – commission agent
  6. Enchérir/renchérir – to bid
  7. L’enchérisseur, l’enchérisseuse – the bidder
  8. L’estimation (f) – the estimated selling price
  9. La mise à prix – the starting price
  10. Un collectionneur, une collectionneuse – collector
  11. Un chineur, une chineuse – antique bargain hunter
  12. Un/ une antiquaire – antique dealer
  13. Un brocanteur, une brocanteuse – second-hand dealer
  14. Le marteau – the hammer
  15. Adjugé… vendu ! – Adjudicated… sold! Going, going…gone!
  16. Un défaut – defect
  17. Faire une bonne affaire – to make a good deal, get a bargain
  18. L’époque (f) – refers to a period in history from which an item originates
  19. Le style – refers to style but is not precise in time
  20. Payer en liquide – to pay cash
  21. Payer par chèque – to pay with a check
  22. Payer par carte – to pay with a credit card

2 – About Auction Sales in France

Drouot oldest public auction house in the world and probably the most famous auction house in Paris.

It has several names:

  • L’Hôtel Drouot – standing for “l’hôtel des ventes”
  • Richelieu Drouot
  • or just “Drouot”.

There are however many auction houses throughout France, and going to one in a smaller city will probably give you access to even better deals than in big cities where there are usually a lot of art dealers and art lovers.

The auctions are public: accessible to all. There are many antic dealers, but also antic amateurs who attend. Everybody is welcome, don’t feel you have to “know” art or be rich to go!

If you go to a public auction house in France, you’ll dive right into French culture, hear some French, have a great story to tell and maybe even bring back home a unique souvenir, or great presents for your friends !

The ambiance is usually quite nice: the auctioneer can make jokes, s/he tries to keep the auction lively. It can be a bit long but you don’t have to stay the whole time either… Don’t move as the biddings are going on but when they are changing items, it’s a good time to leave: just see how people behave and get a feel for it.

Have you ever been to “une vente aux enchères” ? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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