échouer to fail, faillir. Origin unknown. But échec, meaning “failure” and cognate with check in the sense of “checkmate” in playing chess, may be used as if it were a doublet. Alternatively, use chute (“fall”) as a mnemonic.
déplaire to displease (cognate), to be displeasing. A commonly used idiom n’en déplaise à corresponds to English “no offence to”, “with all due respect to”, preceding a sentence that may indeed displease the said person.
dépouiller to strip; to skin (animal); to deprive, to despoil (cognate), to rob. Change é to es to see the cognation. English spoil here means “plunder” or “loot”. Alternatively, as a mnemonic, think of peau (“skin”), which somewhat sounds like -pou-, and prepends dé- for “removing”, thus “to skin”.
affoler to drive crazy or make panic; (reflexive) to panic. See also fou (“mad”, “crazy”).
salope (vulgar) slut, dirty woman, feminine equivalent of salaud (“bastard”); slutty, dirty. saloperie filth, rubbish. From sale (“dirty”). Suffix -erie is for an abstract noun. The suffix-like ending -ope is not explained, but some believe, probably incorrectly, that the words are related to English sloppy. Use sloppy or sloven (“habitually dirty person”) as a mnemonic, and if the latter, note the common interchange between v, b, and p in Romance languages. See also sale, salaud.
relier to connect, to link, to bind. Although English rely was derived from this French word when it was in Old French, it has taken a more figurative meaning (which can be translated as compter in French), while French relier remains literal. See also lier (“to link”).
cuire to cook (cognate). cuit cooked. Biscuit literally means “twice (bis-) cooked (cuit)”. According to Wikipedia, “biscuits were originally cooked in a twofold process: first baked, and then dried out in a slow oven”. The infinitive cuire is not to be confused with English cure (which would be guérir in French).
vigne vine (cognate). English vignette (“decorative designs in books, originally in the form of leaves and vines, to separate sections or chapters” according to Wikipedia; many other senses) is from French.
cortège procession (for a wedding, funeral, etc.), cortege. English cortege is from this French word, which is from Italian meaning “retinue”. Cognate with court.
élancer (reflexive) to dash, to throw oneself at. The root is cognate with lance. See also élan (“momentum”).
cirer to wax. cire wax (n.). Cognate with kerosene (suffix -ene signifies one type of hydrocarbon as in benzene), with the first element of cerography (“drawing or writing into a wax surface”), if traced to Ancient Greek. When the word was inherited in Latin, c was pronounced like k even before e. Consider the fact that both wax and kerosene are hydrocarbon. Alternatively, use serrer (“to tighten”, “to squeeze”; “to shake hands”) as a mnemonic and note that wax was used to tightly seal an envelope in the old days. See also cierge (“candle”).
pute whore, prostitute. Cognate with Spanish puta, which has entered English vocabulary. Alternatively, use the possible cognate putrid as a mnemonic. Or imagine the sound of spitting. See also putain (“whore”).
canapé sofa, couch, settee. Cognate with canopy. From a Latin word meaning “mosquito net”. Later it changed to refer to a seat under this net and then to the seat itself. Imagine a couch with a canopy over it. This word has entered English vocabulary referring to a type of bread as hors d’œuvre (appetizer). According to Wikipedia, the English word canapé “comes from the French word for sofa, drawing on the analogy that the garnish sits atop the bread as people do on a couch.” Note that this French word does not mean “canopy”, which would be canopée, an anglicized word from English canopy.
hôte host (masc.) (cognate); guest (masc. or fem.). To see the cognation, change the accented ô to os. Note that this word sometimes can also mean “guest” (but hôtesse is definitely a hostess and invité definitely a guest), and you have to determine it from the context.
pudeur modesty, decency, chastity, propriety, demureness, sense of shame or embarrassment (especially with regard to matters of a sexual or personal nature). Cognate with the root of impudent (“shameless”, “without shame”). Alternatively, use prudent or pure as a mnemonic.
rôder to loiter, to wander about aimlessly or stealthily. Cognate with rotate. The wheel rotates and the cart wanders around. Alternatively, use rove (“to wander about”) or rover as a mnemonic, or imagine a rodent wandering around.
papillon butterfly. Cognate with pavilion. The wings of a pavilion resemble those of a butterfly. See also éparpiller (“to scatter”).
flou blurred, blurry, fuzzy, unclear, vague, trouble. Etymology doesn’t help. Use a mnemonic such as “This material gives off blurry fluorescent light.” or “One of the symptoms of flu is blurry vision.” Not to be confused with English flow (which would be couler in French).
collier necklace. Cognate with collar. Not to be confused with colline (“hill”).
sanglant bloody. Cognate with sanguine. Not related to sanglot (“sob”). See also sang (“blood”).
damoiseau young man of noble birth (especially one that attracts women), vain man, dandy. Cognate with damsel (“young woman”, as in the phrase damsel in distress). Its female counterpart is demoiselle (“damsel”, “miss”), less commonly spelled as damoiselle, from which the familiar word mademoiselle (“Miss”, literally “my little lady”) is derived.
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