In France, people love “l’art de la table” and often dress a pretty table. If we don’t always set the table with four glasses and different sets of cutlery, you’ll notice it’s still common in a lot of French homes to set a relatively pretty table for each meal. It’s common to have several sets of plates and tablecloths and set a really pretty table for special occasions.
You’ll find more about French table etiquette in this article.
Let’s learn the names of the different items used on a French table.
40 French Tableware Terms
French Silverware Names
- un couvert – piece of silverware
- un couteau – knife
- un couteau à fromage – cheese knife
- un couteau à poisson – fish knife
- une fourchette – fork
- une fourchette à poisson – fish fork
- une fourchette à dessert – dessert fork
- une (petite / grande) cuillère – (small / large) spoon
- une cuillère à dessert – desert spoon
- une cuillère à soupe – soup spoon
- une cuillère à café – coffee spoon
- une pelle à glace – special spoon to eat ice-cream (it’s round and flat)
- Les couverts de service – serving spoon and fork
- un porte-couteau – knife stand
- l’argenterie – silver silverware
- une pelle à tarte – cake server
Many restaurants won’t have un porte-couteau (a knife rest) because… well, they are going to wash the tablecloth anyway, so who cares if you leave a big spot with your knife? Well, I don’t wash my tablecloth after each meal in my house… So I like to use them :-)
French Plate Names
- la vaisselle – dishes
- une assiette – plate
- une grande assiette – main course plate
- une petite assiette – smaller plate
- une assiette à soupe – soup plate
- une assiette creuse – soup plate
- une assiette à fromage – cheese plate
- une assiette à dessert – dessert plate
Be careful not to mistake the word “une assiette” and “un siège” which means a seat. Because the verb “to sit” is “s’asseoir”, I hear this mistake very often.
Note that a very small plate to put under a cup is called “une soucoupe”.
“La vaisselle” in French refers to both the ensemble of your table dishes, an also the dirty dishes you have to wash… A dishwasher is actually “un lave-vaisselle”.
To describe the shape of dishes and plates in French, we often use the French adjectives :
- creux/ creuse – hollow
- plat / plate – flat
- long/ longue – long
- grand/e – large, big
- petit/e – small
or use the construction “à + dish” like “à soupe”, “à dessert” etc…
French Serving Dish Names
- Un plat – serving dish
- Un plat creu – hollow dish
- Un plat plat – flat dish !!
- Un saladier – salad dish, large bowl
- Une soupière – soup dish
- Une saucière – gravy bowl
- Un bol – bowl
Other French Table Terms
- la table – the table
- une nappe – tablecloth
- un set de table – place mat
- une serviette – napkin
- un porte-serviette – napkin ring
- une carafe à eau – water carafe
- un décanteur – wine decanter
- un dessous de plat – (hot) dish stand
- la salière – salt dispenser
- le poivrier – pepper mill
- une tasse – cup, mug
The story featured in the novel part of my French method often takes place in the kitchen, at the table at home or in a restaurant. You’ll learn the French table vocabulary within the context of a realistic story.
If you enjoy learning French language and culture in context, check out French Today’s downloadable French audiobooks: French Today’s bilingual novels are recorded at different speeds and enunciation, and focus on today’s modern glided French pronunciation.
The Many Glasses of the Formal French Table
Glasses (un verre) are placed above the plate, left to right from the tallest to the smallest.
I read somewhere you could have up to 7 glasses on a French table! But usually, in a regular French home, you’ll have one or two: one glass for both water and wine or one glass for water, one glass for wine.
10 French Glass Names
- une coupe de Champagne – Champagne glass (large and open)
You never drink anything else than Champagne (or maybe a Champagne cocktail) in a Champagne glass.
- une flûte à Champagne – Champagne glass (long and tall as featured on the picture below)
- un verre à vin rouge – red wine glass (a bit taller)
- un verre à vin blanc – white wine glass (a bit smaller)
- un verre à eau – water glass
- un verre a whiskey – smaller, usually kind of square
- un verre a martini – martini glass (triangular)
- un verre à vin doux – sweet wine glass (very small)
- un verre à digestif – after dinner drink (super small)
French Drinking Etiquette
VERY IMPORTANT – you need to wait for everybody to have their glass filled, and often give a chance for someone to make a toast, to start drinking. Even water. Read more about French drinking etiquette.
There’s a lot to be said about French table manners. I encourage you to read my in depth article about the French table etiquette since it is a subject on its own.
Would you like to help me do a better list? Add suggestions for more French table related words (not French food, just plates, dishes and silverware, glasses etc… please) in French and translated into English and I’ll add them to the list!