Tuesday 11 March 2014

French words used in Croatian

Since moving to Croatia, I’ve been trying to increase my Croatian vocabulary. I have never studied Croatian, so it is not a language I master.

Because of my circumstances, I speak three languages on a daily basis: French with my Belgian husband, English with my father and Croatian with everyone else. (And sometimes a few words of Kannada to the South Indian cat!)

To be more accurate, I speak mostly the Istrian dialect because that’s the language which is spoken around here, and the one we had spoken at home in Canada during my childhood. So proper, formal Croatian is like a foreign language to me.

By keeping my eyes and ears open, I have come across many French words which are used in contemporary Croatian. Since I’m a language buff, I’ve come up with a list of the words I’ve heard or read which come from French. Of course these words are not spelled the French way, but have been transliterated using the Croatian alphabet. Since Croatian is a phonetic language, words are written exactly as they’re pronounced, with each letter pronounced and no silent letters.

Of course, the fact that Croatian is peppered with some French vocabulary does not mean that Croatian is similar to French, or that French is understood here. Pas du tout! Croatian is a Slavic language, while French is one of the 'Romance' or Latin languages. Are these French words the legacy of Napolean’s short rule over parts of Croatia? Not sure. But most languages have borrowed words here and there from many different languages.

I’m including my list below. It’s not exhaustive, so if you know of others, feel free to let me know!

Croatian word - French word - Meaning
AmbalažaEmballage – Packaging
TrikotažaTricotage – Knitting
EtažaEtage – Floor / Storey
Ormar Armoire –  Cupboard
PlafonPlafond – Ceiling
TerenTerrain – Terrain / Ground / Field
EkranEcran – Screen
Šansona Chanson – Song
Šansa Chance                  
EkipaEquipe – Team
FotiljaFauteuil – Armchair
BorduraBordure – Border (decorative)
FeljtonFeuilleton – Newspaper supplement (In contemporary French: soap opera)
Atelje – Atelier – Studio
Degutantan Dégoutant Disgusting
AvionAvion – Airplane
TrotoarTrottoir – Sidewalk / Pavement
Klošar Clochard Tramp / Vagabond
PlažaPlage – Beach
DekolteDécolleté – Cleavage
BalonBallon – Balloon
Garsonjera Garçonière Studio / Bachelor Apartment
DežuranDe jour – On duty
Šofer  – Chauffeur
RešoRéchaud – Hot plate
BombonBonbon – Candy
ŠarmCharme – Charm
ŽetonJeton – Chip / Token
TrefTreffle – Club
KaroCarreau – Diamond
PikPique – Spade
ŽonglerJongleur – Juggler
ŠampinjonChampignon – Mushroom
DebilDébile – Moron
KamionCamion – Truck
LavaboLavabo – Sink
RetrovizorRétroviseur – Rearview mirror
FarPhare – Headlight
TiražTirage – Circulation (of a publication)
DivanDivan – Sofa
PlakarPlacard – Closet
BalkonBalcon – Balcony
BrošBroche – Brooch 
Fotomontaž Photomontage         
ReportažReportage – Documentary / Coverage
Šokantno Choquant – Shocking
TerasaTerasse – Terrace
ŠefChef – Boss
AsamblažAssemblage – Assembly
PejorativPéjoratif – Pejorative
VandalizamVandalisme – Vandalism
RežiserRégisseur – Director / Steward

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  1. How fascinating Isabel! That's a long list indeed. Thank you for the background on the Croatian language too... love that you can and do speak three languages on a regular basis.

  2. Well, that IS a long list..
    I spent 18 month "en France" so I also noticed a lot of French words in Croatian language - in fact, Croatian language seems to have 50% original Croatian and 50% mosaic of words from French, German, Italian... who ever used to rule us ^_^. (% are arbitrary)

    Anyway, I also made a small list of Cro-French (Crench?) words which can be added to your list:
    Kurir - Courrier
    Bide - Bidet
    Tuš - Douche
    Kiosk - Kiosque (btw this is the same in Japan! But it's actually a type of brand :))
    Grif (although colloquial, but it's there...) - Griffe
    Kombinezon - Combinaison (although, it's not quite direct translation...)
    Grimasa - Grimace
    Aranžman - Arrangement

    Minor note (if you care for this): some of the words you wrote in Croatian are actually Istrian dialect although they have a formal form. All the words that end in "-ž"in formal form end with "-ža". In French words that end in "-age" are mostly masculine gender, but in Croatian they are converted to feminine. Hence the additional "-a".

    1. Thanks Mihaeru for these additions and your interesting insights. I mostly hear the Istrian dialect here so Inevitably Istrian words have crept onto the list!

  3. I love exploring etymology like this, it's so fascinating to see how language changes and develops. French purists are keen to keep English words out of French, but they should be happy to hear how many of their words have made it into a Slavic language!

  4. How fascinating! Languages are so interesting, good on your for increasing your vocab!

  5. I recently came accross frižider which I remembered only for sounding like frigidaire. Love your blog!

    1. Thanks unknown! That's another one for the list!

  6. You can add sapun (standard Croatian) or savun in some Istrian villages (savon) and parfem (parfum) :) But the I was surprised to find out that frizeur is actually a Croatian invention for coiffeur :)


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