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I was once asked the question:

What French word is commonly used in English for which an English word is commonly used in French?

The answer was respectively rendezvous and date, which I found very unsatisfying.

So, does such a situation exist, in which a French loanword is used in English to mean something for which an English loanword is used in French?

Criteria:

  • Both loanwords should be fairly common in the language that borrow them. By that, I mean that it is expected of the general population to know this word. A more precise definition of this criterion would be the absence of the "specialised" tag in the Cambridge dictionary.
  • Both words should ideally be actual loanwords, meaning that their spelling hasn't changed, except for any punctuation. ("Gastronomy" or "beef" wouldn't count.)

Research done:

I've looked at various lists of French words used in English and did not find a match, as well as this related question. ChatGPT was no help.

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6 Answers 6

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From comment:

As I once commented on an earlier question, quoting from a cross-Channel ferry announcement,

"Ladies and gentleman, the buffet is now open. Mesdames et messieurs, le snack-bar est maintenant ouvert."

I have also seen savoir-faire in a spoken English sentence subtitled in French as know-how.

My guess is that the first may have been unconscious, while the second may have been a deliberate play on words by the translator.

You (Mat) responded with "I thought buffet in that context had the same meaning in French and in English. When it comes to food, buffet in French is almost synonymous with buffet à volonté, so it’s probably a wise choice to translate it as snack-bar (maybe they did so after experiencing having to deal with disgruntled French expecting all-you-can-eat buffets)" and "Another example close to buffet could be diner (in English) and snack-bar (in French). I believe both share the same meaning."

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  • 4
    Note that this use of buffet in English is probably a British thing, and tends to be restricted to transport situations. In many, even most, cases buffet (en) would translate better to buffet à volonté than to snack-bar (fr).
    – Chris H
    Oct 20, 2023 at 12:46
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    I suspect it is the equivalent of a train's "buffet car" (less formal than a dining car, as you purchase food and drink standing at a bar) but on a ship
    – Henry
    Oct 20, 2023 at 14:35
  • 5
    Sorry but snack bar and buffet do not work at all.
    – Lambie
    Oct 20, 2023 at 15:10
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    I'm half-French and moitié-anglais and I approve this answer.
    – PatrickT
    Oct 21, 2023 at 2:28
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    @Lambie: doesn't really matter, the words are used to mean the same thing by Ferry operators.
    – PatrickT
    Oct 22, 2023 at 12:36
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Garage (borrowed in English) and Parking (borrowed in French) can both refer to a building used for storing cars.

Garage : Etymology : Borrowed from French garage (“keeping under cover, protection, shelter”), derivative of French garer (“to keep under cover, dock, shunt, guard, keep”) https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/garage#Etymology

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    Thougt about it, but I don’t think they share the same meaning. It would be very odd, although maybe technically correct, to refer to a parking or car park as a "garage" in French. I’m pretty sure it would be the same in English, but I’m not a native speaker.
    – Mat
    Oct 21, 2023 at 20:18
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    @Mat Indeed, "garage" doesn't seem to be used currently in French in this sense. On the railway one finds "voies de garage" which is perhaps the sense in which it was borrowed for car parking. In American English, "Parking garage" is quite common and seems a likely source of the current French usage.
    – grahamj42
    Oct 21, 2023 at 20:50
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    @Mat: Underground or multi-level car parks are very often referred to as garages in America English. And the underground ones seem to be called parkings souterrains in French. Oct 22, 2023 at 2:49
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    @PeterShor I see, so it’s a very good answer then! parking or parking sous-terrain would indeed be used for underground or multi-level car parks.
    – Mat
    Oct 22, 2023 at 8:25
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    As a French person, I find this the best answer so far. Un parking is indeed the standard French word for a car park (including underground or multi-level) and thus a very common word.
    – Nahoj
    Oct 22, 2023 at 12:08
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Festival is a word borrowed into English from Old French with no change in spelling and then re-entered French from English. It is like an absolute mutual loanword.

Here is the etymology of festival from Etymonline:

1580s, "a festal day, appointed day of festive celebration," short for festival day (late 14c.), from Old French festival (adj.) "suitable for a feast; solemn, magnificent, joyful, happy," and directly from Medieval Latin festivalis "of a church holiday," from festum "festival, holiday," neuter of festus "of a feast" (see feast (n.)). The English word returned to French 19c. in certain specialized senses.

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Chic (borrowed from French, German origin)
EN : Stylish and fashionable
FR : Elégant, distingué

Glamour (borrowed from English)
EN : Combination of charm and good looks
FR : charme, sensualité, élégance.

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    The French use chic, they don't say glamour instead of it.
    – Lambie
    Oct 20, 2023 at 18:24
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    The meanings aren't really the same. Glamour in French is the kind of ostentatious charm that is associated with magazine covers. It's a lot closer to the English glamour than to chic. Oct 20, 2023 at 18:45
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Here's a possibility, although not really a very good one.

In English, roué means

A man who recklessly indulges in sensual pleasures; a rake.

And in French, lovelace means

Séducteur, généralement libertin et peu scrupuleux.
Seduceer, generally libertine and unscrupulous.

The French word is derived from the character of Robert Lovelace in Samuel Richardson's novel CLarisa.

Unfortunately, I don't believe lovelace is a common word in French. (But it's not vanished completely: See Ngrams.)

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  • Yes, unfortunately, lovelace isn't exactly common (I never heard it before). Also it seems to come from a surname, so I don't think it qualifies as an English word. (For instance "Don Juan" as in "C'est un Don Juan" isn't considered a Spanish phrase.)
    – Mat
    Oct 19, 2023 at 14:23
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    It is extremely uncommon. The two literary examples given in the TLFI date back to the 19th c.
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2023 at 14:45
  • @Mat: I have to disagree; it is indeed an English word. The OED has the definition Lovelace: a seducer, a libertine, and has citations from 1773 and 1998. Unfortunately, it seems to be even less common in English than in French (where it seems to mainly have fallen into disuse after the 19th century, although wiktionnaire has a few 20th century citations). Oct 19, 2023 at 15:23
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    I even tried Langue Sauce Piquante, les correcteurs du Monde and could not find it. It would seem to be the most likely place to find it: Désolé, mais rien ne correspond à votre recherche. Veuillez réessayer avec des mots différents. lemonde.fr/blog/correcteurs/?s=lovelace
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2023 at 15:27
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    To add to the rarity of lovelace in French, roué is also pretty uncommon in English. I recognised the word and knew it’s meaning, but I can’t say I can recall ever hearing or seeing it used anywhere. If you’d asked me to list words meaning ‘rake’, I doubt I would have been able to pull roué from whatever dark recesses of my mind it inhabited. Oct 23, 2023 at 0:05
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Corresponding loanwords in two languages are difficult to find. One example of adjacent loanwords is the following:

English: maillot

French: le pull[-over], le bikini

So the English maillot can refer to a few garments, as Merriam-Webster indicates. Two of the garments are a swimsuit (usually a one-piece women's suit) and a jersey. Most image or product searches for maillot yield a swimsuit, as seen in these Google image results:

enter image description here

At least historically, maillot could also refer to a jersey, as some Oxford English Dictionary quotes attest:

1948 At a gala evening where the men would discard their maillots for starched linen. A. Waugh, Unclouded Summer iv. 65

1948 His heart was thudding against the cotton of his maillot. A. Waugh, Unclouded Summer iv. 78,

1955 In a not quite clean maillot and a seersucker skirt. D. Barton, Glorious Life vi. 74

French has at least two non-exact loanwords from English.

The French le bikini is derived from the Anglo-American Bikini (itself from a German name for the atoll, in turn from the Marshallese Pikinni [Wikipedia, Bikini Atoll]), which was the name of the atoll where the US Navy carried out atomic bomb tests. Fashion designer Louis Reard borrowed the word from news reports of the first atomic tests, and the term then quickly spread across the fashion world. In a way, bikini in English is thus a double loan-word, lent to French and quickly taken back into English in a different sense.

The term is not quite synonymous with the swimsuit maillot. A maillot is almost always one-piece. A bikini is two piece.

enter image description here

As for le pull or le pullover, it refers specifically to something like this:

enter image description here

It's hard to say whether this compares to the once-used jersey sense of maillot. Two possibilities are that the maillot was really a traditional jersey, in which case it's very close to le pull:

enter image description here

and that it was closer to a modern sports jersey, which would make it not so close:

enter image description here

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    Un sweat is right up there with un pull but not a sweater or sweat. Clothing loan words, c'est la fête du slip !
    – livresque
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:03
  • "bikini" is a French word. Not loaned from English.
    – njzk2
    Oct 20, 2023 at 21:56
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    For bikini, It is apparently German -> English -> French -> English. Or something: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Pikinni#Marshallese
    – PatrickT
    Oct 21, 2023 at 2:10
  • maillot may be found on some English sites for swimsuit but it is just snobbery; no one actually uses it. In any case, it is a one-piece [swimsuit].
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2023 at 16:33
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    It's difficult to make sweeping statements: There are regional and age differences. I've heard my English grandmother say "maillot" and she was not snobbish.
    – PatrickT
    Oct 22, 2023 at 12:42

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