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:
- Une abeille : a bee = a bullet.
- L’antidérapant : the “ non-slip “ = wine.
- Une auge : a trough = the soldier’s plate.
- Le boche : a “ boche “ = the vulgar nickname given to a German.
- La bochie : the “Boche’s country” = term for Germany.
- Une boite de singe : “ a monkey’s box “ = both an artillery shell and canned food.
- 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.)
- Un boyau : “ A gut “ = the entrance of a trench.
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- Boyauter : From “ boyau“ = to walk/patrol in the trenches.
- Un cabot : a corporal and also a dog.
- Un cerf : a deer = an accomplished cavalryman.
- Le chien de quartier : the “ Quarter dog “ = the adjutant.
- Un cleb : a dog.
- Un crapouillot : a “ little toad “= a small mortar.
- ( Gagner la ) Croix de Bois : Earning the Wooden Cross = to be killed in action.
- La gnôle : nickname for strong alcohol.
- Le groin de cochon : the pig’s snout = a gas mask.
- Un moineau : a sparrow = a shell.
- Un moulin à café : The coffee grinder = a machine-gun.
- Un nouveau-né : A newborn = a bombshell that didn’t explode.
- Le pinard : Low quality wine.
- Le poilu : “The Hairy“ = the French soldier.
- Les pompes : the “ pumps “ = the soldier’s boots.
- Rosalie : Rosalie = a nickname for a bayonet.
- La Rosalie de Mademoiselle Lebel : “ Miss Lebel’s Rosalie “ = a bayonet on a rifle.
- Le séchoir : “ the clothes line “ = barbed wire.
- Une taupe : a mole = a German soldier digging tunnels.
- Des totos : nickname for lice and fleas.
- 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!