J’ai la Gnac! 18 Modern French Slang Expressions

Author: Olivier Karfis

French Slang is always evolving. You may know some French slang, but do you know really current French slang, millennium French slang? Let’s study some up-to-date, modern French slang.

Before we dive in the modern French slang expressions, let me tell you a bit about French slang – l’argot.

What is Verlan?

You probably have heard of “le Verlan” which consists of inverting syllables in a word (the word “Verlan” itself is an inversion of the word “l’envers” (‘reverse’).

For exemple know thank you in French – merci – in verlan it becomes “cimer” – it’s very used in modern spoken French.

This slang form is prevalent throughout the French language and some verlan words are even now found in French dictionaries.

Many of you have studied common French slang: “un bouquin” for ‘a book’, “un mec” for ‘a guy’… All these are still used nowadays.

What is Modern French Slang?

Lately, a new form of slang emerged: “le parler d’jeunes” – modern French slang of the Milleniums.

This kind of slang uses new slang terms and of course, modern spoken French pronunciation.

The “D’jeunes” (youth of the millennium) have incorporated traditional slang, verlan, Arabic & English words and shorthand SMS spellings into their language, sometimes even compounding them like inverting the syllables of an Arabic word…

So now let’s see some modern French slang examples.

1 – “Trop zarb, ton idĂ©e”

Your idea is way too strange in modern French slang

Alternate spellings: “zarbi”

This slang expression is actually pretty common and is the contraction of an inversion (verlan) of the word “bizarre”. This way, a 3 syllable word becomes just 1 syllable – much more efficient for the busy d’jeune :-)

The word “zarb” or “zarbi” can be applied to situations or people/things alike: “tu la trouves pas zarbi la prof d’Anglais?”

2 – “Elle Ă©tait bourrĂ©e et lui, il Ă©tait dĂ©foncĂ©”

She was drunk and he was high (on drugs)

Yes, there is a distinction! “Se bourrer” or “se bourrer la gueule” is to get drunk.

The verb “bourrer” means to push too much into or to over fill/force into (probably stems from the word “labourer”, to plow a field) so logically, to put too much alcohol into your body is “se bourrer” [d’alcohol]….

Because taking drugs usually involves smaller quantities and also tends to have more detrimental effects, we have a different verb for it.

“DĂ©foncer” is to break or smash something,

“Se dĂ©foncer” on the other hand can mean ‘to put all your energy into something” like “depuis qu’il a commencĂ© son nouveau job, il se dĂ©fonce” or it can also mean to take drugs.

2 – “ArrĂȘte de flipper et ramĂšne-toi”

Alternate spellings: “amĂšne-toi”

Stop freaking out and get your ass over here

“Flipper” is a perfect example of a borrowed English verb “to flip” being conjugated in French. It follows the standard ER verb form so it works in every tense: “Il a flippĂ©” or “est-ce qu’il flippait?” (although I have yet to hear the subjonctif plus-que-parfait version: “que j’eusse flippĂ©” ;-)

Obviously “amener” is ‘to bring’ and “ramener” is to bring back and both can be used in this context.

“RamĂšne-toi” is closer to ‘bring yourself back here’ but can be interchanged with “amĂšne-toi” no matter if you have already been there or not. It’s a pretty common slang that you’ll hear in a lot of movies and TV.

3 – “C’est trop la honte !”

It’s so embarrassing

This one is less of a specific new d’jeune slang word but more a bad grammar turned into expression.

If you spoke ‘regular’ French, to say it’s so embarrassing, you’d say something like “c’est honteux” or “j’ai honte de…”

4 – “J’ai vu un truc de ouf”

I saw an incredible/crazy thing

“Ouf” is the direct verlan of “fou” or crazy… Also very commonly heard in the streets and in movies.

“Truc” is not a d’jeunes specific word but is common language for a “thing” or one of my favourite US expressions: ‘a whatchamacallit’… More about “ouf” on the Local.fr

5 – “Les d’jeunes”, “les vioc”

‘the young’, ‘the old’ in modern French slang

Alternate spellings: “d’jeuns”, “djeuns” or “djeunz” – “Vioques”

“D’jeunes” originates from the contraction of “des” and “jeunes” (‘young’) “Le language des jeunes”

“Vioc” is the term for old people and can sometimes be used to talk about ones parents… The origins of that expression are harder to pin point but is most likely a contraction of “vielle” (‘old’) and “loque” (‘a rag’).

“Mon vioc ne veut pas que je sorte ce soir” – ‘My old man does not want me to go out tonight’

6 – “Comment je me suis mangĂ© la gueule!”

‘Man I totally wiped out!’ modern French slang expression

“Gueule” is normally the word used to describe the face of an animal ex: “La gueule du loup/chien/crocodile” and is the proper word to use in that context.

It started being used for human’s mouth (“ferme ta gueule”: ‘shut up’) and then to describe someone’s face: “T’as une sale gueule ce matin!” (‘You look like crap this morning’) “T’as vu le mec? Quelle belle gueule…” (‘Did you see that guy? He’s gorgeous…’).

In this context, “mangĂ©” means to hurt oneself – maybe because a flesh wound looks like a bite from a piece of meat... You could also say “je me suis mangĂ© en moto” (‘I crashed on my bike’).  It most often means that you actually hurt yourself but can also be used as a general meaning to “fail” like: “merde, je me suis mangĂ© Ă  mon exam de maths” (‘shit, I totally failed on my math exam’).

Note the grammatical evolutions: “comment” is wrong here, it should be “comme”: “comme elle est belle ! (‘she is so beautiful’). Also “Tu as” becomes “t’as” or even “ta”. Once again, we are talking slang French here, not proper French…

7 – “ArrĂȘte de te la pĂ©ter”

‘Stop showing off’

“Se la pĂ©ter” is to be pretentious.

The word “pĂ©ter” is also the slang for “farting” and for “breaking/exploding”. “Il ne faut pas pĂ©ter en public” (‘one shouldn’t fart in public’) – “J’ai pĂ©tĂ© la tĂ©lĂ©” ‘I broke the TV’ – “la situation internationale va finir par pĂ©ter” ‘the international situation will explode one of these days’.

8 – “Il n’y a que des thons dans cette boĂźte, on se casse?”

‘There are only ugly girls in this club, let’s get out of here OK?’

“Un thon” is the French word for tuna fish.  One has to be careful when referring to someone as “un thon”, as it is an insult. Interestingly, “un thon” is a masculine word but is always used to refer to a woman.

“Une boite” is slang for a “un club” or “une discothĂšque” probably because everyone is squeezed into the club like in “une boite Ă  sardines” (‘a sardine can’)

In this context, “se casser” (literally ‘to break oneself’) is to leave a place.

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9 – “Je kiff cette meuf!”

‘I’m really attracted to/I love this girl’

Here we see the influence of the Arabic immigrants into the d’jeunes speak.  “Kif” is the the arabic word for “a sense of well being/happiness” (also can describe the combination of tobacco and hashish!) and is now very much used by the youth to replace the verbs ‘like’ or ‘love’.

J’te kiffe is modern slang for “I love you” in French.

“Une Meuf” is one of the most common verlan word used today.  It’s the inversion of the word “femme” -> me fem -> meuf (dropping the last vowel is common in verlan – whatever is easier to say will remain).

10 – “Ce bouffon, il est trop chelou”

“This loser is so weird”

“Le bouffon” is a very ancient word for the king’s jester (or the one that makes everyone laugh by doing silly things). It is now very commonly used in modern French slang to describe a loser or a someone you do not respect at all.

“Chelou” is the verlan of “louche” or something/someone who is weird or not normal (“la louche” is also the word for ‘ladle’ but that’s not what this refers to in this context)

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11 – “C’est craignos de chez craignos”

‘This or it sucks way beyond words’

This expression is kind of a strange combination of a relatively new but popular French saying and transformed older slang words.

In French slang speak, to emphasise a particular concept, we’ll use the phrase structure “c’est [adjective] de chez [adjective], for example “C’est bon de chez bon” meaning it’s REALLY good or “c’est chaud de chez chaud” meaning that it’s really hot…

You can pretty much insert any adjective in that expression to emphasize any concept you are trying to put across.

The word “Craignos” comes from the argot expression “ça craint” meaning that the situation is dodgy, dangerous or really bad depending on the concept. In order to apply it as an adjective, the word gets transformed into “il est craignos” which can mean a range of things like a low life, someone bizarre or someone dangerous.

So combining these 2 concepts gives you the full expression of a situation that is REALLY dodgy or sucky.

12 – “Tu captes vraiment rien !”

‘You really don’t understand anything!’

“Capter” is to receive a broadcast using some sort of antenna like a radio or satellite dish, we say “je capte pas NRJ Ă  la maison” (‘I can’t tune into the NRJ radio station from home’) but in this case, it has been applied to someone to describe them as not able to understand anything.

13 – “Elle lui a pĂ©ta son iPhone”

‘She stole his iPhone

Here again, we find a word that is the inversion of an existing older slang word… “pĂ©ta” is the verlan of “tapĂ©” which in itself is argot (slang) for stealing like “il m’a tapĂ© ma clop” (‘he stole my cigarette’). 

Not to be mistaken with another slang word, “pĂ©ter” which is to break. So “Elle lui a pĂ©tĂ© son iPhone” means “she broke his iPhone”.

14 – “Être au taquet”

To be on Fire

“Un taquet” is a piece of wood that you use to hold / block a door. So, if you are blocked, you build up a lot of energy. Then, you are ready to explode. And that’s when you use this expression.

  • Au dĂ©but de l’Ă©preuve, les candidats Ă©taient au taquet, et ils se sont dĂ©foncĂ©s.
    At the beginning of the contest, the candidates were on fire, and they gave it all.

We also use “ĂȘtre Ă  fond” or “ĂȘtre chaud” – to be 100%.

15 – “J’ai la gnac”

I’m super motivated

Believe it or not, this expression comes from a dialect of Occitan traditionally spoken in Gascony called Gascon. See my article on regional French accents and dialects.

How it became a current slang word is a mystery to me, but it is very used nowadays. It means to be very motivated, and can be spelled lots of ways: “niaque”, “gnaque”…

  • J’ai la gnac, je vais tout faire pĂ©ter !
    I’m super motivated, I’m going to explode it all.

16 – “Faut que tu te bouges. Point barre.”

You need to step-it-up. Period.

The entire French expression is “se bouger les fesses” (or more vulgar, “se bouger le cul”), meaning to move your butt (or ass).

“Bouge”, or “Bouge de lĂ ” means “move out of the way”, so it’s the idea of moving to the side. But when you use the reflexive “se bouger”, the meaning is different.

“Point barre” means full period. Or period and a slash. So it means it’s the only thing you have to do, no need to comment or say more about it, end of conversation.

  • Allez, ne te dĂ©gonfle pas. Rien n’est perdu : il faut que tu te bouges, point barre.
    C’mon, don’t give up. It’s not lost yet: you have to step-it-up. Period.

17 – “Faut pas que je me loupe”

I can’t screw up.

The French slang verb “louper” is not particularly modern. It’s been around for some time now, and is slang for “rater”, “Ă©chouer”, “manquer””.

  • J’ai loupĂ© mon train = j’ai ratĂ© mon train = j’ai manquĂ© mon train = I missed my train.
  • J’ai loupĂ© mon exam = j’ai ratĂ© mon exam = j’ai Ă©chouĂ© Ă  mon exam = I failed my test

What is really new about it is the reflexive use: “se louper”. Used for a single person, it means to mess up. Used for several people, it means to miss each other as in to fail to meet up.

  • On avait rendez-vous dans une gare, et on s’est loupĂ©s : j’Ă©tais d’un cĂŽtĂ© de la gare, et elle de l’autre.
    We were meeting up in a train station, and we missed each others: I was in one end of the station, and she was at the other end. 

We also use: “se planter”. This expression was already around when I was young, it’s very used in French.

Note how the “il ne” of the “il ne faut pas” dropped. This is modern French for you…

  • Putain! C’est chaud lĂ … Faut pas que je loupe.
    (Not translatable… sort of “fuck” but less strong). It’s really difficult. I can’t screw up.

18 – “Je suis grillĂ©”

‘I’m toast’ in modern French slang

This French slang expression has exactly the same meaning as in English: “je suis grillĂ©” means “I’m toast”, done, finished. You can also say “c’est grillĂ©”, or “c’est foutu”, both slang for it’s over.

  • C’est la fin de l’Ă©preuve, et j’ai tout foirĂ©. Je suis grillĂ©.
    It’s the end of the test, and I screwed up. I’m toast.

We have 2 fun “traditional” idiomatic expressions for say the same thing:

  • Les carottes sont cuites – the carrots are cooked
  • C’est la fin des haricots – it’s the end of the beans.

Both mean that it’s all over, and there is no more hope.

French Slang is Not For Everybody

These expressions should be used ONLY by young people, they evolve very fast and can be obsolete after only a couple of years.

Many of them come from the streets, and would be frowned upon when used in the wrong context.

You need to understand them, because you’ll hear them in French movies, songs… and maybe in the streets of France.

But I wouldn’t use them – actually, I don’t use most of them.

Besides, French slang sounds really bad when a non native speaker tries to play it too ‘hip’ and uses too much of it.

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Author: Olivier Karfis

Olivier Karfis

I'm Camille's husband. I handle all the marketing, technical & design aspects of the site and our apps. I sometimes cameo on some of the French Audiobooks recordings.

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Can You Understand Today’s Spoken French?

It’s not just slang. The French everybody speaks in France today is NOT the overly enunciated, extremely formal French usually taught to foreigners.