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How To Say Rock, Stone in French

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Jul 7, 2020
How To Say Rock, Stone in French

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.

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!

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