Speak Like a French-Canadian: Québécois Slang Terms You Should Know

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April 21, 2021

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Are you thinking about travelling to French-speaking Canada? Hoping to watch a French Canadian film or TV show? First things first, the French spoken in France and the French spoken in Canada are two very different beasts.

This article is here to help you with the ins and outs of Canadian French.

French-CanadianQuébécois Slang Terms and Phrases TW

The Québécois

Québec French (français québécois), also known as Québécois, is the most prominent variety of French spoken in Canada.

It’s the native language of approximately 7.3 million Canadians, comprising 20.6% of the Canadian population. Most native French speakers in Canada live in Quebec, which is the only province where French is the sole official language. 95% of Quebec Province’s population speaks French as their first or second language.

Québécois is very distinct from the French spoken in France. It has its own unique characteristics and vocabulary, due to its own unique history.

The Origin of Québécois 

In 1608, France claimed rule over what is now modern day Canada. The French colonists established their own permanent settlements and imposed French as the official language.

In 1763 Britain overthrew the French rule of Québec and established control with the Treaty of Paris. This resulted in the remaining French elite fleeing, the ending of commercial trade with France and the significant decline of the teaching of French in the region. The English speaking minority took power and instituted the use of English as the official language.

There was a lot of resistance from the French-speaking Québécois, who maintained a largely standard Parisian French. The industrialization at the tail-end of the 1800s saw large numbers of the rural Quebec population move to the English-speaking cities. 


It was there that French began to mix with English. This resulted in joual, a derogatory term that comes from parler cheval, meaning ‘to talk horse.’ This is what we have come to know as Québécois today.

TalkInFrench Quebec City

Via Pixaby

The difference between Standard French & Québécois

Québécois is based on the French spoken in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries, however when the English took over, Québec became isolated from other French speakers around the world. As such, Québécois sounds more archaic as it has kept some of the characteristics that are no longer found in standard French, which continued to evolve.

It’s important to note that both the French and the Québécois use the same standard French in writing. They use the same sentence structure and grammatical rules.

The difference is found mostly in the accents, vocabulary and sayings that are specific to French Canadians. Québécois French also uses more anglicisms, words and phrases taken from English, due to its very close contact and proximity with the English language.

Common Québécois Vocabulary and Phrases

Here are some commonly used vocabulary and phrases found in casual conversation in Québécois. 

Québécois Vocabulary

Les binnes (f pl)bean
Les bobettes (f pl)knickers, panties, underwear
Béaient de bièrebeer belly
Un charcar
Une champluretap
Un chien-chaudhot dog
Un clavardagechat
Fin(m)/Fine(f)Nice/Sweet!
Frencherto french kiss
Jaserto chat
Une laveusewashing machine
Le liquor
*Be careful of this false friend.
soda
Magasinage
*Literally magasin (shop) & the suffix -age to show the action of shopping
shopping
Ma blondemy girlfriend
Un robeur
*From the English word rubber
tire
Stacose
*Comes from parce que
because

Common Québécois Phrases

Attache ta tuque!
*A tuque is a Canadian word for beanie
Hold on tight!
Avoir la langue à terre
*Literally to have my tongue on the floor
to be extremely tired/hungry
Avoir des papillons dans l’estomacto have butterflies in your stomach
Avoir le feu au cul
*Literally to have fire in one’s butt
*Cul is quite vulgar to refer to someone’s buttocks
to be angry
Avoir des vers dans le cul
*Literally to have worms in the butt
to have ants in your pants
Avoir la fly à l’airto have your fly open
Avoir du front tout de la têteto have some nerve
Avoir son voyageto be at the end of your tether
Avoir mal aux cheveux
*Literally to have a hair ache
to have a terrible hangover
Avoir les shakesto have the shakes/to be scared
Arrête de faire le boss de bécosses!
*Literally stop acting like the boss of the toilets
Stop acting like the boss!
Caller l’orginalto puke/to vomit
C’est le fun!It’s awesome!
Chauffer le char
*A play on the word chauffeur
to drive the car
C’est tiguidou! It’s all good!
Ça a pas d’allure!
*Allure has a different meaning in English
It makes no sense at all!
Ça vient de s’éteindreperiod, end of story
Chu dans marde!I’m in trouble!
Comme toé!Relax!
Déguédine!Hurry up!
Drette làRight here
Dûr de comprenureYou don’t understand
Être vite sur ses patins
*Literally to be quick on one’s skates
to be quick off the mark
Fais pas ta neuve!Don’t be a spoiled brat!
Faire du pouce
*Literally means to make some thumb
to hitchhike
Faire du trainto make a lot of noise
Franchement Armand!That’s taking the piss!
J’aime le way qu’à hangI like your look
Je vais aller m’aller ma lettreI’m going to mail my letter
Il fait frette!It’s freezing!
Mets-enTotally/For sure
Sacrament!
*Comes from the Catholic rite
Dammit!
T’as pas rapportYou’re not making sense
T’es ben chixYou’re hot
T’es faite à l’osYou’re dead meat
T’es tellement meanYou’re mean
Tire toi une buche
*Literally means to take a log
Take a seat
Tu me prends pour une valise?
*Literally you take me for a suitcase (which can be filled with anything)
You take me for a fool/gullible person?
Se calmer le pomponto stay cool

Québécois Swear Words and Curses

TalkIn French Swear words

Via Pixabay

A large amount of Québécois slang, as well as swear words come from the terminology and rites of the Roman Catholic Church. Historically, Quebec has very strong ties to the Catholic faith. This has resulted in some very colorful and at times, highly blasphemous phrases and sayings.

Calisse
*A blasphemous word referring to chalice
Holy fuck
Chalice de Crisse!
*Literally the Chalice of Christ
Damn it!
Crisse!Christ!
Osti!
*This translation comes from the bread eaten during Catholic Mass
*It can also refer to the F-word
Damn it!
Osti de calisse de ciboire de tabarnak
*This highly blasphemous saying translates to Host of Chalice of ciborium of tarbernacle
Holy shit/Fucking hell
Sacrament!
*A Catholic rite
Dammit!
TabarnakFuck!
TalkInFrench Quebec street

Via Pixaby

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this ride through a brief history of Quebec, and the vocabulary, phrases and swear words of Québécois.

What are your favorite words and phrases? Have you been to Quebec? What other phrases have you heard?

Let us know in the comments!

About the author 

Melanie is Australian. She loves to travel and is a language enthusiast. She has a long-standing love affair with the French language and culture.

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