French insults: The best ways to insult someone (politely) in French
One of the best parts about learning German, French or Italian in Switzerland is finding out about all the fun and creative ways people jibe, insult and joke with each other in a different language. French is known as a very alliterative and expressive language, meaning many of the insults are very creative indeed. To help get you started, here are some of our favourite clever French insults.
French swear words in Switzerland
Around 22,9 percent of the Swiss population speaks French on a day-to-day basis - not surprising given that four Swiss cantons (Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura) have French as their official language, while three cantons (Bern, Fribourg and Valais) are bilingual with German. The line marking where French speakers end and German Switzerland begins is called the Röstigraben.
Swiss French is very similar to the French spoken in France and Belgium. As a consequence, many of the funniest and most clever insults have their origins across the border. Here are some of our favourites.
How to insult someone politely in French
Now before we begin, we have to say that some French curse words are far too rude to be written down here, so instead, we’ve taken a look at the cleverest (and in some ways most polite) ways you can insult someone in French. That being said, while they can be amusing, be sure to use these words in the right context like with friends and family - not during a high-stakes meeting with your boss at work, for example.
Now, with that out of the way, here are some fun French insults to try out!
French insults and curse words for when someone isn’t that bright
If you are faced with someone who isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, the French have prepared a number of clever insults for you to use.
The word "andouille" refers to a type of smoked sausage made of pig intestine, but it is also an insult. Although more of an old-fashioned and polite jibe, when it is used it refers to someone who is lazy or stupid.
Bête comme ses pieds
"Bête comme ses pieds" is one of the harshest ways you can convey the idea that a person is as thick as two short planks, as it means that they are as stupid as their feet. That’s because, for French speakers, the feet are the stupidest part of the body as they are furthest from the brain.
Roi des cons
If you really think someone is the stupidest person you’ve ever met, it would make sense to give them an official title. All hail the "Roi des Cons", or "King of Idiots"!
If you want to make your bourgeois tendencies known via your French insults, you could consider using the word "plouc" or hick. This is meant to describe someone who is unsophisticated, rural or poor - as it comes from the Breton term "plou", which means a regional area.
Ne pas avoir la lumière à tous les étages
Much like the English phrase “a few sandwiches short of a picnic”, the French phrase "ne pas avoir la lumière à tous les étages" means someone who is a bit stupid. This specific example means that their lights aren't on all their floors. Another French example is "comme une valise sans poignée", meaning they are as useless as a suitcase without a handle.
Une vache espagnole
While this phrase directly translates to a Spanish cow in English, the insult is targeted towards those who are still learning French and are perhaps trying to put on a stereotypically bad accent. The full expression is "tu parles français comme une vache espagnole", which means that you speak French like a Spanish cow.
Tu as le QI d’une huitre
In French, "tu as le QI d’une huitre" means you believe that someone has the intelligence of an oyster or small shellfish. We think that insult speaks for itself.
French cuss words for someone who is annoying
In daily life, there are occasions when you find yourself getting more and more worked up because of something someone said or did. In these situations, why not try out these handy phrases:
The phrase "casse couille" has a meaning that is roughly the same in French and English. The word means “ball buster” or “ball crusher” - a perfect way to describe an employer who set you five extra tasks to complete at 7.29pm on a Friday.
One of the milder insults on the list - families use this phrase to discipline their children - "t’es chiant" means you’re boring, annoying, a pain in the behind, or any combination of the three. Be sure to try this out the next time your child is doing something they shouldn’t.
While originally meaning annoying or obnoxious, younger generations in France and Switzerland have started to use "relou" to describe someone who is creepy. For example, "ce mec est trop relou" or "this guy is so obnoxious / won’t take a hint."
Péter plus haut de son cul
If you attempt to fart higher than your butt, you will inevitably fail in your ambition. That is what is meant by the phrase "péter plus haut de son cul" or "farting higher up her / his butt." In context, the phrase is used to describe someone who is arrogant, overambitious or a show-off.
Like the phrase “stubborn as a mule”, "tête carrée" or "square head" refers to someone who is annoyingly stubborn and obstinate.
Insults in French for when you are done with someone
If you are really at wit's end, you could try ending the conversation with one of these insults:
"Ta gueule"or "ferme ta gueule" means "shut up" or "shut your mouth" when translated into English. However, what makes this phrase more confronting is that "gueule" refers to an animal's mouth, hence why it is considered an insult.
If you are mid-conversation, and a friend is rabbiting on about something you couldn’t care less about, you could let them know by saying "n’importe quoi." In French, this is quite a rude way to say “whatever.”
A very popular insult over in France, the phrase “casse-toi!” directly translates to “break yourself.” However, any blue-blooded French person will tell you that it is only used to tell someone what you think of them, as it genuinely means “bugger off.”
Aller se faire cuire un oeuf
A little more subtle than "casse-toi" is the phrase "aller se faire cuire un oeuf." While it does translate to “go cook an egg”, it is actually a semi-jibing way to ask them to sugar off.
What are some of your favourite insults in French?
Being such an old language, French is awash with cheeky and clever ways to poke fun at people. Have a polite insult that we have missed? Let us know in the comments below!
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