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WW1 Unique French Vocabulary

Eliane By Eliane - updated on Jul 7, 2020
WW1  French Vocabulary practice

Discover the French World War One battlefields of the Somme, the unique WW1 French vocabulary used in the trenches, and practice your French with this bilingual story.

1 – WW1  French Vocabulary

I will introduce below some terms used during WW1 in France:

  1. Une abeille : a bee = a bullet.
  2. L’antidérapant : the “ non-slip “ = wine.
  3. Une auge : a trough = the soldier’s plate.
  4. Le boche :  a “ boche “ = the vulgar nickname given to a German.
  5. La bochie :  the “Boche’s country” = term for Germany.
  6. Une boite de singe :  “ a monkey’s box “ = both an artillery shell and canned food.
  7. Les Bouchers Noirs : “ The Black Butchers “ = the soldiers in the artillery. (This expression came from the color of their uniforms and the devastating effect they had.)
  8. Un boyau : “ A gut “ = the entrance of a trench. 

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  9. Boyauter :  From “ boyau“ = to walk/patrol in the trenches.
  10. Un cabot : a corporal and also a dog.
  11. Un cerf : a deer = an accomplished cavalryman.
  12. Le chien de quartier :  the “ Quarter dog “ = the adjutant.
  13. Un cleb :  a dog.
  14. Un crapouillot : a “ little toad “= a small mortar.
  15. ( Gagner la ) Croix de Bois : Earning the Wooden Cross = to be killed in action.
  16. La gnôle : nickname for strong alcohol.
  17. Le groin de cochon : the pig’s snout = a gas mask.
  18. Un moineau : a sparrow = a shell.
  19. Un moulin à café : The coffee grinder = a machine-gun.
  20. Un nouveau-né : A newborn = a bombshell that didn’t explode.
  21. Le pinard : Low quality wine.
  22. Le poilu : “The Hairy“ = the French soldier.
  23. Les pompes : the “ pumps “ = the soldier’s boots.
  24. Rosalie : Rosalie = a nickname for a bayonet.
  25. La Rosalie de Mademoiselle Lebel : “ Miss Lebel’s Rosalie “ = a bayonet on a rifle.
  26. Le séchoir : “ the clothes line “ = barbed wire.
  27. Une taupe : a mole = a German soldier digging tunnels.
  28. Des totos : nickname for lice and fleas.
  29. Un toubib : a “ doc “ = a doctor.

2 – Where Does This WW1 French Terms Come From?

At the beginning of the WWI, soldiers from all over the world encountered a small difficulty: not all French soldiers spoke correct French!

Indeed, many spoke their own dialect (different according to each region: as the Picard for example). But rapidly, they created a dialect specific to the war: « trench slang » (a mix of several dialects and popular French).

If you’d like to study the War and weapon French vocabulary, click the link!

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