How To Say Rock, Stone in French

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

French uses several words to translate the notions of stone, rock: “une pierre”, “un rocher”, “la roche”, “un caillou” etc… They are not interchangeable.

1 – Une Pierre

“Une pierre” is the général term used to say ‘rock’ or ‘stone’. In doubt, use that one :-)

Note that “Pierre” is also a French first name: Peter.

If something is made of stone, you’d say “en pierre”. You could also say “de pierre” but it’s not as common.

Regarde la jolie maison en/de pierre. C’est la maison de Pierre je crois…
Look at the pretty stone house. It’s Peter’s house I think…

So how could you say if it’s “une maison de pierre or de Pierre ?”… as often, context would tell. But I have to admit this one is super confusing!

rock and stone in french

2 – Le Caillou

“Le caillou” means the small rock. Maybe a pebble…

Note that the plural is irregular: it takes a silent “x” instead of an “s”. “Un caillou, des cailloux”.

Now you know the meaning of your kid’s favorite French cartoon character: the sweet little boy “Caillou” – ‘Pebble’, named as such probably because he has no hair.

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3 – Le Gravier

“Le gravier” is gravel. It is mostly used as an ensemble, as a surface.

J’ai un caillou dans ma chaussure ; ça doit être une petite pierre qui est entrée quand je marchais sur le gravier dans la cour.
I have a pebble in my shoe: it must be a small stone which got in when I was walking on the gravel in the courtyard.

4 – Le Rocher

“Un rocher” is a boulder. Une très grosse pierre…
So what’s the difference between “une pierre” et “un rocher” ? I’m not exactly sure. I always say that I can carry a stone but not a boulder…

So now, let’s look at all this vocabulary in picture in a short video I shot during my family vacation in Ardèche, France. A good French listening practice! Turn the CC on for French and English subtitles.

5 – La Roche

“La roche” is the geological term for stone, as you’d find it when you on a dig. We really don’t use it much in French except in this geological register.

Unfortunately, since it sounds like ‘rock’, students tend to use it a lot: people will probably figure out what you mean, but chances are that you should have used “une pierre” instead.

6 – Le Roc, La Roque

Hum… This words are found a lot in proper names in France, as featured in the video below. It usually refers to a sharp stone peak of some sort.

Again, I’d say don’t use it unless you are referring to a proper name.

Here is another Spoken French practice video I made during my vacation… this time in Provence (you get to visit France with me :-)

if you enjoyed the YouTube videos, please leave a comment, a thumb up, and subscribe to French Today’s YouTube channel to encourage me to do more!

7 – Le Galet

This is a particular sort of stone: one you find by the beach or sometimes creeks and river beds : a river pebble. We have many of these where I live, in Brittany !

8 – La Pierre Précieuse

That’s a gem, a precious stone. My favorite kind of stone!

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 23+ 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. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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