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French Terrorism Vocabulary

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Jun 17, 2020

In the light of the recent Paris terrorist attacks (Nov 2015) and in other places around the world, many Skype students of mine who follow the news on French TV/Radio asked for the French vocabulary for terrorism and the meaning of “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” – I also recorded its pronunciation.

I did not find any complete reference on the internet I could point them to so I decided to write a blog post about this, thinking it would help others as well.

1 – French Terrorism Vocabulary

  1. Le terrorisme = terrorism (watch out for the pronunciation, in English, it sounds like “rezum” at the end. In French, the ee is long so it sounds like “reez me”
  2. Un/une terroriste = a terrorist
  3. La terreur = terror
  4. La peur = fear
  5. Avoir peur = to be afraid (watch out, we use “to have” fear in French)
  6. La panique = panic

2 – Un attentat = a terrorist attack

  1. Une attaque = an attack
  2. Une bombe = a bomb
  3. Un détonateur = a detonator
  4. Une explosion = an explosion
  5. Un incendie criminel = a criminal fire
  6. Exploser une bombe = to trigger a bomb (proper)
  7. Faire sauter une bombe = to trigger a bomb (colloquial)
  8. Diffuser une bombe = to defuse a bomb
  9. Une alerte à la bombe = a bomb scare/alert
  10. Une voiture piégée = a car bomb
  11. Un auteur d’attentat-suicide / une bombe humaine / un kamikaze = a suicide bomber

3 – Un otage = an hostage – always masculine, strong liaison in N (un notage)

  1. Un prisonnier = a prisoner
  2. Un ravisseur = a kidnapper
  3. Prendre / exécuter / libérer un otage = to take / kill /free hostages
  4. Traquer les terroristes = to track down terrorists
  5. Soupçonner quelqu’un = to suspect someone
  6. Un suspect (c and t silent) = a suspect

4 – Une arme = a weapon

  1. Une arme a feu = a firearm
  2. Un revolver, un pistolet = a handgun
  3. Une mitrailleuse = a machine gun
  4. Une mitraillette = an automatic handgun, a Tommy gun
  5. Un fusil = a rifle
  6. Une balle = a bullet
  7. Tirer sur quelqu’un = to shoot at someone
  8. Se faire tirer dessus = to be shot at
  9. Tuer quelqu’un = to kill someone
  10. Abattre quelqu’un = To intentionally kill someone with a weapon / to strike someone down
  11. Abattre un avion = to bring down a plane
  12. Blesser quelqu’un = to wound someone
  13. Un blessé, une blessée = a wounded man/woman
  14. Un mort (t silent) = a dead man
  15. Une morte (t pronounced) = a dead woman
  16. Un passant innocent = an innocent bystander
  17. Dons de sang/dons du sang = blood donation
  18. Appel aux dons du sang = (official) request for blood donations

5 – Renforcer la sécurité = to tighten security

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  1. Un, une témoin = a witness
  2. Interroger = to interrogate, to question
  3. Un barrage = a road-block
  4. Une frontière = a border
  5. Fermer/ ouvrir les frontières = close/open up the borders
  6. Fouiller = to search for
  7. Revendiquer une attaque = to claim responsibility for an attack
  8. Etre impliqué dans = to be involved in
  9. Une cellule terroriste = a terrorist cell
  10. Un réseau = a network

6 – Un extrémiste = an extremist

  1. Le fanatisme = fanaticism
  2. Au nom de = in the name of
  3. La politique = politic
  4. La religion = religion
  5. La Chrétienté = Christianity
  6. Le bouddhisme = buddhism
  7. L’Islam = Islam
  8. Dieu = God
  9. Allah = Allah
  10. Un musulman, une musulmane = a Muslim
  11. Un chrétien, une chrétienne = a Christian
  12. Un juif, une juive = a Jew
  13. Un bouddhiste = a Buddhist
  14. Une guerre de religion = a religious war
  15. Une guerre politique = a political war
  16. Le racisme = racism
  17. Daesh = Isis/Isil/IS – there might be slight differences but most often, France news will use “Daesh” or Etat islamique (EI)


7 – What Does Fluctuat Nec Mergitur Mean?

“Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” is the motto of the city of Paris. It’s latin, so pronounce each letter and the u like “ou”. The English translation is “floats, not sinks”. So “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” means that the city of Paris is like a solid boat: it may be rocked by the waves, it will float and not sink.

8 – Pronunciation of Fluctuat Nec Mergitur with Audio

Well, there are two pronunciations for “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur”… It’s latin, so to pronounce it in Latin, say each letter, the G is hard like Gorilla, and the u is typically pronounced like “ou”, and the R is rolled.

But many French people pronounce it with a French accent…

So it’s your choice! Click the play buttons below to hear me pronounce “”Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” in Latin and French

9 – Pronunciation of Fluctuat Nec Mergitur with Audio – Latin

10 – Pronunciation of Fluctuat Nec Mergitur with Audio – French


You may also be interested in What Does “Je suis Charlie” means and Vive la France – How to Express Patriotism in French.

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