12 French Lullabies for your little one (translation lyrics & audio)

12 French Lullabies for your little one (translation lyrics & audio)

Ahh, that time of the evening when you are trying to put your child to sleep. We’ve all been there, trying to convince that energetic baby or toddler to bed. Lullabies, with their soothing and repetitive beats, are meant to lull to sleep small children, while also being a source of calm for adults alike.

At the same time, if you are looking for something different and to learn a little bit of French, I’ve put together a list of some of the most beautiful French lullabies that I hear regularly here in Paris with my own children.

Many of the traditional nursery rhymes have more upbeat lyrics, so these berceuses as they are called, are songs are specifically for the evening routine. Sweet and enchanting, these French bedtime songs and music will transport your baby and should make the transition to sleep much easier (at least in theory!)

I will warn you though, the lyrics sometimes are a little nonsensical and some of them have a real whiff of desperation which all the tired moms and dads out there can attest to. Here is to keeping it real!

So without further ado, there are the best French lullabies to soothe your baby to bed.

1. Fais dodo, Colas mon petit frère

You will notice that a lot of French lullabies have the word dodo in them. Dodo is Baby French slang for Dormir, meaning “to sleep”.

Dodo – French slang for Dormir

English translation: Sleep

I say “baby french slang” because there are a series of words that end in “o” and “ou” that are reserved for small children. Words like doudou meaning favorite toy or coucou meaning bonjour are most often used in the context of children.

In this song, there is also “Colas” which is short for the French name Nicolas (the s is not pronouced), and “lolo” which is another baby slang for lait (milk).

French LyricsEnglish Translation
(Refrain)
Fais dodo, Colas mon p’tit frère
Fais dodo, t’auras du lolo
(Refrain)
Go to sleep, Colas my little brother
Go to sleep, you will have your milk
Maman est en haut
Qui fait des gateaux
Papa est en bas
Qui fait du chocolat
Mom is upstairs
And she is making cakes
Dad is downstairs
And he is making chocolate
RefrainRefrain
Ta sœur est en haut 
Qui fait des chapeaux 
Ton frère est en bas 
Qui fait des nougats 
Your sister is upstairs
and she is making hats
Your brother is downstairs
and he is making nougats
RefrainRefrain
Ton cousin Gaston 
Fait des gros bonbons 
Ta cousine Charlotte 
Fait de la compote 
Your cousin Gaston
is making big candies
Your cousin Charlotte
is making compote
RefrainRefrain

You will notice there is a strange assortment of rooms in this song, with seemingly several kitchens. No matter, I’m pretty sure your baby won’t notice!

2. A la Clair fontaine

A rather sweet if melancholic song is A la claire fontaine. This song is a French classic, which just about every parent in France has heard a million times. But all those parents will be a bit hard pressed to explain the lyrics to their toddler!

French LyricsEnglish Translation
À la claire fontaine
M’en allant promener
J’ai trouvé l’eau si belle
Que je m’y suis baigné
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai
At a clear fountain
When going for a walk
I found the water so beautiful
That I bathed there
I have loved you for a long time
I will never forget you
Sous les feuilles d’un chêne
Je me suis fait sécher
Sur la plus haute branche
Un rossignol chantait
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai
Under the leaves of an oak
I dried myself
On the highest branch
A nightingale was singing
I have loved you for a long time
I will never forget you
Chante, rossignol, chante
Toi qui a le coeur gai
Tu as le coeur à rire
Moi, je l’ai à pleurer
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai
Sing, nightingale, sing
You who have a happy heart
You have the heart to laugh
I have it to cry
I have loved you for a long time
I will never forget you
J’ai perdu mon ami
Sans l’avoir mérité
Pour un bouquet de roses
Que je lui refusai
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai
I lost my friend
Without having deserved it
For a bouquet of roses
That I refused him
I have loved you for a long time
I will never forget you
Je voudrais que la rose
Fut encore au rosier
Et que ma douce amie
Fut encore à m’aimer.
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai
I would like the rose
Was still in the rosebush
And that my sweet friend
Was still loving me.
I have loved you for a long time
I will never forget you

3. Berceuse de Brahms

This beautiful song was originally composed by Johannes Brahms in German, before being translated into French. It remains one of his most popular songs, with versions performed by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney.

French LyricsEnglish Translations
Bonne nuit,
Cher trésor,
Ferme tes yeux et dors.
Laisse ta tête, s’envoler,
Au creux de ton oreiller.
Un beau rêve passera,
Et tu l’attraperas.
Un beau rêve passera,
Et tu le retiendras.
Good night,
Dear treasure,
Close your eyes and sleep.
Let your head fly away
In the hollow of your pillow.
A beautiful dream will pass,
And you will catch it.
A beautiful dream will pass,
And you will remember it.
RepeatRepeat

4. Brille Brille Petite Etoile

The great classic, Twinkle Twinkle little star is translated into French, with slightly different lyrics.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Brille, brille petite étoile
Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
Tout là-haut au firmament
Tu scintilles comme un diamant
Brille, brille petite étoile
Veille sur ceux qui dorment en bas.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
In the revealing night 
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Watch over those who sleep downstairs.

5. Frère Jacques

Unlike Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which was originally English and then copied into French, here is a song with a French origin that was copied into English. Here is the original version of the classic, Are you sleeping Brother John?

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Frère Jacques
Frère Jacques
Dormez-vous?
Dormez-vous?
Brother Jacques
Brother Jacques
Are you sleeping?
Are you sleeping?
Sonnez les matines
Sonnez les matines
Ding, ding, dong
Ding, ding, dong
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong,
ding ding dong.
RepeatRepeat

You can find more classic French nursery rhymes here.

6. Dodo goutte d’eau

A rather sweet French lullaby with restfully pacifying lyrics is Dodo goutte d’eau. You can just imagine the rainstorm outside while listening to this soothing tune.

French LyricsEnglish Translations
(Refrain)
Dodo, goutte d’eau
Tout le long de la fenêtre
Dodo, goutte d’eau
Tout le long des carreaux
(Refrain)
Sleep, drop of water
All along the window
Sleep, drop of water
All along the tiles
Le vent siffle sous la porte
Et le feu s’est endormi
La chanson de l’eau apporte
Le sommeil à ces petits
The wind whistles under the door
And the fire fell asleep
The song of the water brings
Sleep to these little ones
RefrainRefrain

☞ READ MORE: Top French Children’s books by age

7. Dodo, l’Enfant do

A French nursery rhyme that is more like a prayer for every parent around the world. Dodo again in slang for sleeping, and this gentle calming song hopes your baby is having a lovely rest.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
(Refrain) Dodo, l’enfant do,
L’enfant dormira bien vite
Dodo, l’enfant do,
L’enfant dormira bientôt
(Refrain) Dodo, the child sleeps,
The child will sleep quickly
Dodo, the child sleeps,
The child will sleep soon
Une poule blanche
Est là dans la grange
Qui va faire un petit coco
Pour l’enfant
Qui va faire dodo
A white hen
Is there in the barn
Who will make a little hot chocolate
For the child
Who’s going to sleep
RefrainRefrain
Tout le monde est sage
Dans le voisinage
Il est l’heure d’aller dormir
Le sommeil va bientôt venir.
Everyone is wise
In the neighborhood
It’s time to go to sleep
Sleep will soon come.
RefrainRefrain

8. Dodo poulette

Another French lullaby with rather nonsensical lyrics is dodo poulette, which if you read the lyrics, is not far from begging and/or trying to bribe the child to sleep.

French LyricsEnglish Translations
Dodo Poulette,
Ma mignonnette
Faites un tour, un petit tour
Embrassez tous vos amours
Toujours !
Sleep my little chick,
My lil’ cute one
Take a ride, a little ride
Embrace all your loves
Always !
Dodo Poulette,
Ma mignonnette
Si Alice fait dodo
Elle aura un coco
Tout chaud !
Sleep my little chick,
My lil’ cute one
If Alice goes to sleep
She will have a chocolate (milk)
All hot!
RepeatRepeat

By the way, if you are wondering why there is a space between the word and exclamation mark in French, you can read about French punctuation rules here.

9. C’est la cocotte blanche

And speaking of illogical lyrics, there is c’est la cocotte blanche. I’ve added the lyrics and the translation, but really it is for the parent to make up the lyrics as he/she goes. The point of the song is not to make sense, but rather to rhyme.

French LyricsEnglish Translations
C’est la cocotte blanche
Qu’a pondu dans la grange
Qu’a pondu un p’tit coco
Pour l’enfant qui fait dodo
It’s the white casserole
That is carried in the barn
That laid a little coconut
For the child who sleeps
C’est la cocotte grise
Qu’a pondu dans la r’mise
Qu’a pondu un p’tit coco
Pour l’enfant qui fait dodo
It’s the gray casserole dish
That laid in the rebate
That laid a little coconut
For the child who sleeps
C’est la cocotte noire
Qu’a pondu dans l’armoire
Qu’a pondu un p’tit coco
Pour l’enfant qui fait dodo
It’s the black casserole dish
That laid in the wardrobe
That laid a little coconut
For the child who sleeps
C’est la cocotte verte
Qu’a pondu dans l’herbe
Qu’a pondu un p’tit coco
Pour l’enfant qui fait dodo
It’s the green casserole dish
That is carried in the grass
That laid a little coconut
For the child who sleeps
C’est la cocotte brune
Qu’a pondu dans la lune
Qu’a pondu un p’tit coco
Pour l’enfant qui fait dodo
It’s the brown casserole dish
That is carried on the moon
That laid a little coconut
For the child who sleeps
C’est la cocotte rouge
Qu’a pondu dans la citrouille
Qu’a pondu un p’tit coco
Pour l’enfant qui fait dodo
It’s the red casserole
That is carried in the pumpkin
That laid a little coconut
For the child who sleeps

There is a similar lullaby called c’est la poulette grise which follows the same rhyming principle.

9. Ne pleure pas Jeannette

Speaking of begging the baby to sleep, we have “Ne pleure pas Jeannette“, which has rather interesting lyrics considering there was a revolution in France and there are no longer any French princes or barons.

French LyricsEnglish Translations
(Refrain)
Ne pleure pas Jeannette,
Tra, lallallallalla lla llallalla lla lla,
Ne pleure pas Jeannette,
Nous te marierons,
Nous te marierons,
(Refrain)
Don’t cry Jeannette,
Tra, lallallallalla lla llallalla lla lla, Don’t cry Jeannette,
We will marry you,
We will marry you,
Avec le fils d’un prince,
Tra, lallallallalla lla llallalla lla lla,
Avec le fils d’un prince,
Ou celui d’un baron,
Ou celui d’un baron
With the son of a prince,
Tra, lallallallalla lla llallalla lla lla,
With the son of a prince,
Or that of a baron,
Or that of a baron
Repeat RefrainRepeat Refrain

10. Douce Nuit, Sainte Nuit

One of the most beautiful Christmas carols is of course Silent Night, Holy Night, which in itself is actually a lullaby. The French version of Silent Night is just as lovely and soothing.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Douce nuit, sainte nuit 
Dans les cieux. L’astre luit. 
Le mystère annoncé s’accomplit 
Cet enfant sur la paille endormi, 
C’est l’amour infini. x2 
Sweet night holy night.
In the heavens. The star is shining.
The announced mystery is fulfilled
This sleeping child on straw,
It’s infinite love. x2
Paix à tous. Gloire au ciel. 
Gloire au sein maternel, 
Qui pour nous, en ce jour de Noël, 
Enfanta le Sauveur éternel, 
Qu’attendait Israël. x2
Peace to all. Glory to heaven.
Glory in the womb,
Who for us, on this Christmas day,
Bore the eternal Savior,
What was Israel waiting for. x2
Saint enfant, doux agneau. 
Qu’il est grand. Qu’il est beau 
Entendez résonner les pipeaux 
Des bergers conduisant leurs troupeaux 
Vers son humble berceau. x4
Holy child, sweet lamb.
How tall he is! How handsome he is.
Hear the piping
Shepherds leading their flocks
Towards his humble cradle. x4

11. Ma poupée chérie

We’ve all been there, the nights when the baby just won’t sleep. This rather amusing lullaby is for all the exhausted moms (and dads) out there.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Ma poupée chérie ne veut pas dormir
Petit ange mien, tu me fais souffrir
Ferme tes doux yeux,
tes yeux de saphir
Dors, poupée, dors, dors ou je vais mourir
My darling doll doesn’t want to sleep
Little angel of mine, you make me suffer
Close your sweet eyes,
your sapphire eyes
Sleep, doll, sleep, sleep or I’ll die
Ma poupée chérie vient de s’endormir
Bercez-la bien doux, ruisseaux et zéphyrs,
Et vous, chérubins, gardez-la-moi bien
Sa maman jolie l’aime à la folie
My darling doll just fell asleep
Rock her very soft, streams and zephyrs,
And you, cherubs, keep it for me
Her pretty mom loves her madly

12. Au Clair de la lune

While most of the French lullabies have rather innocous lyrics, I had to throw this in here for the parents to have a laugh. Au clair de la lune is a beautiful nursery rhyme which is very popular, probably because it is long and soothing. But there are a few questionable lyrics in there.

If you read the words closely, there is a mysterious neighbor, some mild swearing, and people looking for a pen and a light in the middle of the night (which could easily stand for something else, if you get my drift). You can read all about those risqué neighbors here.

Nonetheless, the song is big hit, not to mention quite soothing for little ones.

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And there you have it, do you have a favorite? If you enjoyed that article, you may like to hear more French nursery rhymes or French songs for older children here.

A bientôt!

¹ Featured Image: Shopify Partners

Joke of the day

illustration of baby crying and waving a diaper and toy around. Comment is "when your kid wants a diaper with a panda on it instead of a crocodile"
Logical little ones, aren’t they!?

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