poudre powder (cognate). Doublet with poussière (“dust”). English pulverize (“to crush into powder”) is from a French word related to poudre. Examples, sucre en poudre (“granulated sugar”, but literally “sugar in powder”); poudre à canon (“gunpowder”). See also poussière.
guérir to cure, to heal. Cognate with garrison. Originally guérir meant “to defend”. Curing a disease is likened to a garrison defending against enemy. Not to be confused with guère (“hardly”), guerre (“war”). This word is an -ir ending verb, while the other two obviously have no verb ending. Example, le médecin a guéri le patient (“the doctor cured the patient”).
péché sin. pécheur sinner. Cognate with the root of impeccable (“not having flaws or fault”), i.e. -pecca, with rare English words peccadillo, peccancy. Alternatively use a mnemonic such as “the sinful people have perished”. Or imagine the apple Adam and Eve ate (and so committed the sin) was actually not an apple, but a peach, although peach is pêche in French, where ê is pronounced with the mouth opened slightly wider than é. Example, péché originel (“original sin”). See also pêche for a hint.
piège trap (n.), snare. piéger to trap. Related to pied (“foot”). Cognate with pedestrian, pedal. A trap or snare catches one’s foot. Note the pronunciation of è is slightly more open than é. Examples, ils lui ont tendu un piège (“they set a trap for him”); une voiture piégée (“a car bomb”, literally “a trapped car”).
paroi inner wall, partition. Cognate with parietal (“about wall”). As a mnemonic, consider English parapet (“low wall”), which is not a cognate. Examples, la paroi / le mur de la chambre (“the bedroom wall”); les parois d’un vase (“the inner surface of a vase”).
boucle loop; buckle (fastening clasp) (cognate); ringlet. boucler to buckle (cognate). To remember the sense of “loop” or “ring”, think of how the car seat belt is used; when you buckle it up, the belt partially forms a ring around your waist. Examples, veuillez boucler votre ceinture! (“please buckle up / wear your seat belt!”); une boucle d’oreille (“an earring”).
envoler (reflexive) to fly away. From en- + voler (“to fly”). The prefix en- may be related to Latin inde meaning “from there”. Alternatively, it could simply be an intensifier. Not to be confused with English involve (which would be concerner, nécessiter, or impliquer in French). Example, l'oiseau s’est envolé (“the bird flew away”). See also voler.
effrayer to scare, to frighten, faire peur. effroi fright, terror, peur, terreur. Cognate with afraid, with an outdated English word affray (“to scare”; “disturbance of peace”). To remember effroi, as a mnemonic, you can also associate froid (“cold”) with the feeling of fear. Example, tu m’as effrayé / tu m’as fait peur (“you scared me”).
bougie candle; spark plug (bougie d'allumage, literally “candle of ignition”). From the name of the city Bougie (now Béjaïa) in Algeria, known for making candles. As a mnemonic, imagine a petit bourgeois family in the old times lit up candles at night, or “the scary bogey was holding a candle when he came out of hell”; a bogey is a ghost or goblin.
minuit midnight. Prefix mi- is cognate with mid- but French final d (just like medial d) easily dropped. Nuit and night are cognates if traced to Proto-Indo-European. Not to be confused with minute, which as a unit of time is still spelled minute in French and is feminine (unlike minut). Examples, à minuit (“at midnight”); la messe de minuit (“the Midnight Mass”).
chauffer to warm, to heat. chauffage heating. The first element is related to chaud (“hot”) and the second to faire (“to do”, “to make”). Not to be confused with the etymologically connected chauffeur (“driver”), which originally referred to a stoker or operator of a steam engine. Examples, un chauffe-eau (“a water heater”); le chauffage central (“central heating”).
rude rough, harsh, hard. In spite of cognation, this word is a false friend of English rude, which would be impoli or grossier in French. Example, une rude ascension depuis la vallée (“a steep / tough climb from the valley”).
mousse foam, froth. Cognate with moss. Foam looks like the moss grass. This word has entered English vocabulary as a food especially chocolate mousse (mousse au chocolat in French). Not to be confused with English mouse (souris in French). Unrelated to mousson (“monsoon”). Example, mousse à raser (“shaving cream”, literally “foam for shaving”; this phrase can also be used as a mnemonic if you can associate mousse with moustache).
connerie bullshit; stupidity, stupid thing to do. Possibly cognate with con as in con-artist.
laid ugly. Cognate with loathsome (“repulsive”, “disgusting”), loath (“unwilling”, but originally “loathsome”) if traced to Proto-Germanic. But this etymology hardly helps. As a mnemonic, think of either a lad or a lady that is not so pretty. Or imagine drinking milk (le lait) turned someone ugly.
beurre butter (cognate). From Latin butyrum, contracted to but’rum, and tr changed rr for easier pronunciation (just like that in Latin putrere “putrid” > French pourrir “to rot”). Alternatively, use a mnemonic such as “Mexican burrito with butter” or “you’ll burp a lot if you eat too much butter”. Not to be confused with bourrer (“to cram”).
encre ink (cognate). If you prefer a mnemonic instead, try “there’s encrypted text in this ink spot”. Not to be confused with the homophone ancre (“anchor”). Example, encre de Chine (“India ink”, “Chinese ink”; according to Wikipedia, “India ink was first invented in China, but the English term India(n) ink was coined due to their later trade with India”).
entrevoir to catch a glimpse of, to see briefly or imperfectly. Prefix entre- normally means “between”, but in some compound verbs indicates a small action. Otherwise, as a mnemonic, imagine you see (voir) something only through a small gap between (entre-) two things. See also entrevue (“meeting”; “interview”).
canard duck; fake news, hoax. A duck’s quack sounds like this word. This word in its second sense has entered English vocabulary. This sense is said to be from vendre un canard à moitié (“to half-sell ducks”); the story goes, a guy sells duck at an unreasonably low price, but only for half of other sellers’ amount, which he indicates only in small text at the bottom of his sign. If the first sense is remembered, the second is easy since English quack can also mean both “duck’s sound” and “charlatan”. Example, le vilain petit canard (“the ugly duckling”; vilain means “ugly”, not “villain”).
cabane cabin (cognate), hut, shack.
tempe temple (anatomical part) (cognate). Note that temple as “building for worship” is still temple in French. Not to be confused with temporary (temporaire in French).
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