Everyone reaches their limit at a certain point. Sometimes you just need to curse out loud, and swear to the heavens.
French people are not afraid of cursing. If you live in Paris, this might be more often than not. The crowded metros, constant traffic jams, everyone is always in a rush and can be quite angry and aggressive about it, especially if a cultural taboo has been broken. It is why Parisians have a reputation for being rude.
Well if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them. The French swear words below are for general cursing, whether it be towards a person or not. For a more aggressive version, I will direct you to my post on hardcore French insults.
I wouldn’t recommend you throw these around at the office, or if you are trying to get good service at a restaurant because that server will immediately retaliate back. Use in moderation, as with all things.
Without further ado, here are the best French curses and swear words for you to enjoy. Allons-y!
1. Merde! – Shit!
Merde has to be number 1 on the list, one of those multi-purpose French swear words that can be used in almost any circumstances. It means “shit”, but can also mean “damn”. It is so popular, there is even a verb “emmerder“.
Merde can be used in many circumstances such as:
- merde! – damn!
- je m’emmerde – I’m drowning in boredom
- vas t’emmerder – go f*ck yourself
- grosse merde – big shit
- tas de merde – pile of shit
- Foutre la merde – to f*ck up
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2. Putain! – Shit!
The word “Putain” is another of those multi-functional words that can be used to express sadness, anger, joy, disgust, surprise, and confusion all individually or at the same time. It is like the Swiss (French) army knife of swear words
For extra emphasis, you can combine it with Merde:
- Putain de merde – Bloody hell
3. Je m’en fiche – I don’t care
If someone is reminding you to do something that you don’t want to (like your French homework), you can respond with a “Je m’en fiche“, meaning “I don’t care”.
4. Je m’en fous! – I don’t care (strong)!
Fiche means “paper form”, while fou means “crazy”, so you can see how “je m’en fous” is a bit stronger than “je m’en fiche“.
5. Sacre Bleu! – Oh my God!
Sacre bleu is probably one of those phrases that anglophones think of as a French swear word but is not actually used in France anymore. It is generally a cry of surprise or happiness and a variation of Sacré Dieu translating to “holy God“.
It dates back to the Middle ages, and so is still somewhat used in Quebec, but almost never in continental France.
6. Tabarnak (Quebec) – Holy F*ck
Tabarnack is never used in France, but being both French and Canadian, I had to include this on the list. If you want a French person to give one word to express to a Quebecois, this is the word they will come up with.
It comes from the word “tabernacle’ and translates to ‘holy f*ck’.
7. Saperlipopette – Oh dear!
For a milder way to say “sacre bleu!”, “saperlipopette” has entered the French lexicon. There is no actual meaning to the word “saperlipopette”, it is a polite way of swearing, without actually saying the words.
It is rather old-fashioned and cute, and actually has recently been used as a brand name for restaurants and other ventures.
8. Tu me gonfles! – You are pissing me off!
Gonfler means “to inflate”, so this swearing expression literally means “you are inflating me”. In practical terms though, it means “you are pissing me off”.
9. Dégage! – Go away!
A ruder way to say “shoo”, dégage means “go away!”. For instance you can say
- allez, dégage! – Go, go away!
- dégage d’ici! – Go away from here!
10. J’en ai ras le bol – I’m fed up!
Ras is not really a word by itself, it could mean pocket, or it could mean to reassemble. And bol means bowl. However, when you put “ras le bol” together, it is an expression of deep frustration. “Ugh, j’en ai ras le bol ”, meaning “I’m fed up”!
11. Ça pue! – That stinks!
Ça pue! doesn’t have to be a curse word, but you get the idea. If something stinks literally or figuratively, this french curse word might come in handy.
12. Tais-toi! – Shut up!
If you want to say a simple “shut up” in French, “tais-toi” is it. You may notice with all these expressions that they are in the “tu” form and not the “vous”. Since “vous” is a sign of respect, it really doesn’t make sense to say “taisez-vous“.
13. Ferme ta gueule! – Shut Your mouth!
This curse word can also be used in the short version “Ta gueule“. Guele literally means “your mouth“, so the French idiom “bois de guele“, means hangover (wooden mouth).
In this case however, there is no equivocating, “ferme ta guele” is quite rude.
14. Bordel – Crap!
Bordel literally translates to “whorehouse”, but figuratively means “crap”. I don’t recommend using it in polite company, or at the office.
You can also use it as, “Quel Bordel!”, meaning “what a mess!”, as an example if you come home and find your house in complete disarray.
You can also combine it with other phrases such as:
- Bordel de merde – Bloody hell
- Putain de bordel de merde – Bloody a$$ f*ckery
- Foutre le bordel – Make a bloody mess
15. N’importe quoi – Whatever
If you are looking for a phrase to grumble under your breath, but still have the other person here you, “n’importe quoi” is it. Basically, it means, “whatever” or “no matter what”, and is somewhat mild as French curse words go.
But it can be used in a few different ways and translated as ‘anything’, ‘what is rubbish is he doing’, ‘nonsense’, ‘rubbish’ or even ‘bullshit!’.
- tu dis n’importe quoi – you are talking nonsense
- Il fait n’importe quoi – he is doing rubbish
- N’importe quoi! – Whatever!
It can also be used in a non-swearing way such as “je ferais n’importe quoi pour apprendre français“, meaning “I will do whatever it takes to learn French”.
16. Nom de Dieu – In the name of God!
If you are religious (or rather if you are not), you may swear in the name of God. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be a swear word, it could just be taking the Lord’s name (hopefully not in vain!)
17. Baiser – To be f*cked
Baiser is a verb meaning “to kiss” or “to f*ck”, so it can be used in many scenarios. There is the more-or-less innocent:
- un baiser – a kiss, a shag
- Il a baisé la main de la princesse – he kissed the hand of the princess
And then there is the more vulgar:
- Je me suis fait baiser – I got screwed over
- On a bien baisé – We had s*x
And to make it even more confusing, don’t mix it up with the verb “baisser” meaning “to lower”. For example, “baisse ton voix“, meaning “lower your voice”.
18. La Vache – Holy cow!
If you are looking for one that is rather soft, you can go with “La Vache” which goes with any and all occasions. It is just an expression of surprise, and not necessarily with a negative intention.
- Il a dit quoi? La vache! – He said what? Oh my goodness!
You can find more funny French expressions with animals here.
19. Con/Connerie – bullshit
Connerie means “joke” or “bullshit” and is a very common French expression. There are many variations that can be used here:
- C’est une connerie – that’s bullshit
- Il fait des conneries – he is doing rubbish; he is screwing up
- Connard (m), Connasse (f) – Jerk, asshole
- Con – Jerk
- C’est con – that’s too bad
- Il est con – he is dumb
20. Ça me saoûle – that annoys me
This expression literally translates to “that is making me drunk”, but in essence, you are saying that you are really annoyed. The upcoming election: Ça me saoûle.
21. Ça me fait chier – that pisses me off
Taking it one step higher in the vulgarity department would be “Ça me fait chier“. It literally translates to “taking a dump”, so you can see that we’re going up a level in curse words!
22. C’est naze – it sucks
Bringing it back down would be the teenage-oriented C’est naze, meaning “it sucks”. Having to do homework after school: C’est naze.
23. Bon sang! – Good grief!
Along with Sacre Bleu, you don’t hear Bon sang! that much any more, but French people will still recognize it when they hear it.
It literally translates to “Good blood”, and is another one of those French curse words invoking God that have become less widely used as France has become more secular.
24. Dégueulasse! – Disgusting!
Dégueulasse is not a curse word exactly, but kids in school will still consider it a gros mot. You can say “c’est dégueulasse“, or just shorten it to “dégu!” to rhyme with “eww!” By the way, the French way to say “eww” is actually “berk”.
25. C’est chiant (m) / chiante (f) – That’s annoying
Another really common French curse expression is “C’est chiant (m) / chiante (f)“, depending on whether the thing annoying you is masculine or feminine.
(In French, since objects like car and book are feminine or masculine, the adjective has to agree with the gender. )
Other variations are:
- t’es chiant, toi! – you are annoying me!
26. Zut – Darn it!
Zut! A rather soft way of saying “too bad”, “darn it” or “shoot!” You could also say “zut alors!“, but nobody actually says that anymore. It has become rather passé, if you will!
27. Punaise! – Darn it!
While zut alors may be passé, punaise is the word of the moment. Literally, it means “thumbtacks”, while punaise de lit means “bedbugs”. Not particularly what you want any day of the week. Punaise!
28. Niquer – to f*ck
Another popular French swear word is niquer which could mean to f*ck, but could also mean to steal. For example, “le pickpocket a niqué son portefeuille” as in “the pickpocket stole his wallet.”
But if you want to swear at someone, the phrase “Nique ta mere” meaning “f*ck your mother” is one that is quite popular in the current lexicon.
It could also mean to dupe someone as in “Il t’ai bien niqué sur ce coup-là!” meaning “he really duped you on that one!”.
29. Couilles – balls
With more below-the-belt references there is “couilles“, which literally translates to “t*sticles”. Similar to the English, “stop breaking my balls”, there is “arrêtes de me casser les couilles“.
As a swear word, it can be used as “Il y a une grosse couille, plus rien ne marche!” meaning “there was a big f*ck-up, nothing works anymore.”
Other variations include:
- Se battre les couilles – to be uninterested in. Eg: “Je m’en bats les couilles” – I don’t give a f*ck.
- Il ne raconte que des couilles – he is telling rubbish.
- Couille molle – wet balls, meaning weak and with little courage (very vulgar, and could constitute as hate speech).
- Couillon/couillonne – literally translates to little t*sticle, but means idiot.
30. Enculer – to screw in the backside
Now there is the verb enculer and the noun enculé. (If you are going to learn to swear in French, you might as well do it right!)
There is “va te faire enculer” using the verb, which translates to “go f*ck yourself” or “f*ck off”.
Or you can use “enculé!” as a noun which means asshole or cocksucker. And if you want to be even more precise, you can say “petit enculé!” meaning “little f*cker”, for added emphasis.
31. Se Casser – Get lost/f*ck off
Casser literally translates to break, as in “Aie, j’ai cassé le verre!”
However, se casser means to get lost, as in “casse-toi!” There is also “je me casse” as in “I’m getting out of here”.
And for even more emphasis, you can combine it with couilles from above for “casse couilles!” meaning “ball breaker”.
32. Chier – Shit
You can also say “ça me fait chier“, meaning “that is really shitting (annoying) me”.
Other variations are:
- faire chier quelqu’un – to piss somebody off
- un chieur / une chieuse – boring, annoying
33. Cul – Ass
As far as French swear words go, cul (ass) doesn’t really stand on its own. There is “trou du cul” meaning “asshole”, or “lèche-cul” meaning “ass-licker”. You pick whichever you prefer.
34. Enfoiré – Asshole
Another version of asshole is enfoiré. This curse word is quite popular, especially in the south.
Note, there is a famous annual charity concert in France called Les Enfoirés, meaning the bastards. The aim of the concert is to raise money for a charity called Restos des Coeur which aims to feed the homeless and poor.
That still doesn’t mean you should go around calling people les Enfoirés though unless you want to start a fight.
35. Salope – Bitch
Salope in French means “bitch” or “slut”. Similar to English, this is used only for females. An expression would be “quelle salope“, meaning “what a bitch!”.
Note: Don’t confuse salope for salopette, which actually is a type of clothing in the style of dungarees or overalls!
36. Salaud / Salopard – Bastard
For men, there is salaud or salopard which means “bastard” or “son of a bitch”.
These swear words come from the French word sale meaning “dirty” or salé meaning “salty”.
As an object, there is also “saloperie” meaning dirt or filth. An example would be “dire des saloperies” meaning to recount obscene stuff. It could actually just mean dirt though, as in “il y a des saloperies dans ta tasse” meaning “there is dirt in your cup”.
Other variations include:
- Sale Gosse! – Rotten kid!
37. Gros tas – Fat pile
This insult refers to a person’s physical appearance as in “fat pile”, and is quite rude.
38. Bras d’honneur
The bras d’honneur is not an expression but a strong insulting gesture. It involves banging a hand on the inside crease (elbow) of the other arm, which is folded upstanding the forearm with a clenched fist.
It can be combined with any of the other insults on the list and you can also add the middle finger for added emphasis.
39. Tête de noeud – Dickhead
This insult literally translates to “knot head”, but is much stronger than that, meaning “dickhead”. Screaming “Tête de noeud” at nearby cars while driving will qualify as road-rage.
40. Va te faire voir – Get lost
Not as rude as some of the others ways to swear at someone, this phrase literally translates to “go get yourself seen” or rather “get lost”!
41. Bite – Dick
Pronounced “beete” this refers to a particular pointy piece of anatomy on a man. I will let you guess what that is.
42. C’est bof – That sucks
A bit of French slang here, c’est bof means “that’s terrible” or “that sucks”. You can use it all sorts of occasions, where it is not that rude, but if you do use it in a Michelin 3-starred restaurant to comment about the food, you will insult the chef.
43. C’est nul – That sucks
Another phrase that doesn’t work in a 3-star restaurant is “c’est nul“, which also means “that sucks”.
44. Espèce de raté – Loser
In French, the verb rater means to miss out or lose out, as in “il a raté le bus“, meaning he missed the bus. In “Espèce de raté” however, you are calling some a “piece of a loss”, or rather a loser.
45. Fripouille – Scoundrel
Fripouille in French refers to a dishonest person or a crook. I’ve also heard it teasingly used with a small child who is being naughty.
46. Aller se faire cuire un œuf – Stop bothering me
This French insult literally translates to “go cook an egg”, but actually means “go away and stop bothering me”.
“Tu m’énerves! Va te faire cuire un œuf!” meaning “you are annoying me! Go away and cook an egg!” You can find more interesting French expressions involving food here.
47. Roi des cons – King of Idiots
“T’es vraiment un roi des cons, toi!” as in you are really a “King of the Idiots, you!” I’m not sure it translates to females however, “reine des cons” or “Queen of the Idiots” is not really an expression.
48. Débile – Dumb
Another rather common French curse word that is not necessarily aimed at anyone is débile. Eg. “c’est débile!” meaning “that’s dumb/stupid”!
49. Bête – Stupid
Bête is similar to débile, but usually more likely to be used towards a person. Eg. “t’es bête!” meaning “you’re stupid”! It can also be used in general like “c’est bête, mais c’est comme ça.”, meaning “that is stupid but it’s like that”.
50. Tête de mûle – Head of a donkey
Literally translated to “head of a donkey” it is quite clear that this one is not a compliment. (Which is rather sad if you think about it, what did the donkey do to anyone 😉
51. Casse-pieds – Painful
Similar to casse-couilles, but not as rude, we have casse pieds. eg. Il est vraiment casse-pieds meaning, “he is really painful!
52. Fainéant(e) – Lazy person
Faiéant is a word used for lazy people, and the force of the word just depends on how empathically you say it. eg. T’es fainéant, toi!, meaning “my goodness, you are lazy!”
53. Je vais te défoncer – I’m going to destroy you
Défoncer is not necessarily a swear word, but it can be used that way. A non-offensive use of the word could be “j’étais défoncé à tennis” meaning “I was destroyed at tennis”. But you can use Je vais te défoncer to say “I’m going to destroy you” if in an angry argument with someone.
If you would like to download some of these words to remember, please see our free flashcards below. And if you enjoyed this article, you may also like my list of the best French insults when you really want to tell someone off! A bientôt!
¹ Featured Image: by Matthew Henry