colis parcel, package. Cognate with collar. From Italian. Related to cou (“neck”), collier (“necklace”), col (“collar”). When you carry a heavy package on your shoulder, the neck feels the big weight. Not to be confused with colline (“hill”). See also cou, collier.
cafard cockroach; depression, blues. Cognate with kafir or kaffir (“unbeliever, especially one not believing in Islam”). Suffix -ard implies pejorative (e.g. English drunkard). Unfortunately, there’s no convincing theory linking the Arabic word for “unbeliever” to a cockroach; perhaps they are equally unpleasant. The word doesn’t appear to be related to English chafer (“flying beetle”), which nevertheless can serve as a mnemonic if you know the word. Alternatively, imagine a café (either a small restaurant or a coffee shop) with cockroach problems (remember -ard implies something bad), and imagine a person suffering from depression drinks lots of coffee to feel better. The sense of “depression” (as in the idiom avoir le cafard) came from French poet Charles Baudelaire’s famous poem Les Fleurs du mal (“The Flowers of Evil”). Note cafard is more frequent or common than blatte, a more formal name for “cockroach”.
somnoler to doze, to drowse, to slumber. Cognate with the root of insomnia. See also sommeil (“sleep”).
dédaigner to disdain (cognate), to despise. dédain disdain (n.). Change é to es and then to is to see the cognation.
miner to mine (coal, etc.) (cognate); to undermine, to sap, to erode. Note the second meaning. But the figurative sense does not extend to information technology; data mining in English is l’exploration de données in French.
grenouille frog. Etymology doesn’t help. Use a mnemonic such as “Frogs are greenish.”
lande wasteland, heath, moor (n.). Possibly cognate with land.
maudire to curse. From Old French maldire, i.e. mal- (“bad”) + dire (“to say”). The al-to-au change is also seen in mauvais (“bad”), chaud (“hot”, from Latin caldus), autre (“other”, from Latin alter).
carriole cart; sleigh. Cognate with chariot.
lieue league (about one hour’s walking distance, two and half to three miles) (cognate). This unit of distance was used in the ancient times. Unrelated to lieu (“place”), which is a homophone (pronounced the same); but lieue is feminine (as most nouns ending with e are) while lieu is masculine. The word lieue used figuratively may simply imply “far away”. See also banlieue (“suburb”).
itinéraire route, path, way to reach a place; itinerary. Note the first meaning.
effectif headcount (number of people); staff, work force; effective, actual. Note the first and second meanings, when it’s used as a noun. Sureffectif and sous-effectif mean “overstaffed” and “understaffed”, respectively.
noircir to blacken. From noir (“black”). The ending -cir is not a suffix per se, but is from Latin suffix -sco (or -esco) indicating the starting (inchoative state) of an action. The ending in French durcir (“to harden”) is the same. For our purpose though, just think of it as a verb suffix.
marteler to hammer, to strike with a hammer. English martel (“hammer”) is from Old French.
lugubre gloomy, lugubrious (cognate), dismal. If the word lugubrious sounds too literary or pedantic, as a mnemonic, think of the sounds gu, glu, gloo, or gru as implying sullenly unhappy, also in e.g. grumble, grumpy, groan, and of course gloomy.
râler to moan, to groan, gémir. râle groan (n.). The words have entered English vocabulary as rales (where a is pronounced like that in palm) as a medical term referring to the rattling sound heard with a stethoscope, and rail referring to a type of bird. Alternatively, use rattle as a mnemonic, or “Dissatisfied people moan and groan, and rally for a protest.”
écureuil squirrel (cognate). Change é- to s- to see the cognation.
valable valid (cognate), good or acceptable by authority under certain conditions. French valide is a much less frequent word and almost always can be replaced by valable. (Valide has another meaning, “able-bodied”, as opposed to invalide.) Not to be confused with English valuable, which would be de valeur or précieux in French.
croître to grow. Cognate with crescent, with Italian crescendo (“to increase”), which has entered English as a musical term (“play gradually more loudly”). From Latin crescere, where the first e, long and stressed, changed to oi in French as usual. The moon in the waxing crescent phase is growing in its bright shining side. Not to be confused with croire (“to believe”); although a number of their conjugated forms are pronounced the same, those of croître tend to contain letters î and û instead of i and u when spelled out. As a mnemonic, think of the upward-pointing circumflex in croître and its conjugated forms as the direction of growth.
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