The nine very best French insults (for use when you're very, very angry)

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The nine very best French insults (for use when you're very, very angry)
Feeling angry? Stop, take a deep breath and learn to swear properly in French. File photo: Depositphotos"

If you've finally lost your cool over passive aggressive notes in your apartment building's laundry room, if you want to express your displeasure over a parking fine or if you just want a short sharp exchange of views with the person who has told you off for putting your rubbish out on the wrong day, here are the phrases you will need.


The Swiss are generally polite people and they like to observe social niceties such as saying hello to random strangers on the street – a fact which often surprises people from overseas.

Switzerland is also a great place to live: safe, peaceful, clean...and extremely beautiful of course.

Read also: 20 telltale signs you have gone native in Switzerland

That said, as with living anywhere, there are times when people just need to blow off some steam. But if you've truly decided that is enough is enough and someone needs to be given a piece of your mind, there is nothing worse than not having the correct vocabulary to express your fury.

So for those of you living in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, we've gathered together some of the best phrases for expressing everything from mild disappointment to eye-popping rage.

1. Chiant/e

So let's start gently with a relatively mild insult.

Chiant/e is the adjective derived from the verb chier which is a vulgar way to say 'to crap' or 'to shit'. 

But despite this chiant/e isn't quite as offensive or distasteful as you might think. 

It is frequently used in conversation to describe something as 'really irritating', 'really annoying', 'really boring' or in more extreme slang 'a pain in the ass'. 


For example you could say, Ce film est super chiant, ne va pas le voir. - 'This film is super annoying, don't go and see it.'

Or in its feminine form: J'en ai marre de ma petite sœur : elle est chiante! - 'I'm sick of my little sister: she's really irritating!'

2. Relou

This a verlan word, meaning that it is formed by inverting another word's syllables (for more on verlan, click here).
In this case, that word is lourd - not in its literal sense, ‘heavy', but rather the figurative one, used to describe a presence or situation that is ‘oppressive', ‘irritating', or ‘unbearable'.
Relou is used to talk about someone or something that is irritating or oppressive, but the verlan version, probably because it is less formal and more slangy, carries a little bit of extra oomph.
Relou is probably most frequently used when talking about a person whose presence or behaviour is or has become oppressive:
Au début, Pierre semblait cool, mais il est devenu trop relou. - At first, Pierre seemed cool, but he got really annoying.


Especially when applied to a man, relou usually refers to the sort of guy who makes bad jokes, lacks tact, and doesn't know when their presence is unwanted… think Michael Scott from the Office (or David Brent in the UK version), seen without any sympathy.
Arrête de la draguer tout le temps, t'es relou! - Stop hitting on her all the time, you're a pain in the ass!
It can also be used to describe a disagreeable situation, much like ‘that sucks' in English.
Comment ça se passe, le travail à Lausanne? - Je ne fais que métro, boulot, dodo, c'est relou. - How's the job in Lausanne going? - I do nothing but commute, work, and sleep, it sucks.
And finally, relou can be used as a generally disparaging adjective to talk about most things or concepts:
Ta gueule! On en a marre de tes blagues reloues! - Shut it! We've had it up to here with your lame jokes!

3. Ta gueule!

This brings us neatly to number three on the list, which is used more directly to a person, rather than about them. If you're using this, you've passed the point of trying to reason politely with someone.

The word gueule means ‘muzzle' or ‘maw', and is a colloquial, often pejorative way of referring to either someone's mouth, like ‘gob' or ‘trap'. The phrase ta gueule is a shortened form of ferme ta gueule, meaning ‘shut your gob' or ‘shut your face'. Ta gueule, the most frequently used variation, is most often translated as ‘shut up!', as in:


T'as vu ? Le PSG a perdu à nouveau hier soir! - Ta gueule! Did you see? PSG lost again last night!- Shut up!
4. Vénère

Not exactly an insult as such, but if you want to tell people that you're really, really angry this is the way to do it.

Vénère is another verlan one and it's one that you will frequently see in street demos and protests as people describe themselves as well and truly pissed off.

It's verlan for énervé, meaning ‘irritated', ‘angry', or even ‘pissed off' - the first and last ‘é' are combined (énervé -> vé-éner -> vénère). As in, Je suis trop vénère, ta soeur m'a piqué mon mec! - I'm really angry, your sister stole my man!
Or, Son père était hyper vénère quand il a appris sa note au bac. - His dad was super pissed when he found out about his grade on the bac (end of high school exam).

5. Tu m'emmerdes

If your neighbour has kept you awake for the third night in a row partying or arguing with his significant other, that would probably be an appropriate time for this phrase.

The literal translation of tu m'emmerdes is 'you're shitting on me'. 
But it really means 'you're pissing me off!', 'you're bugging me!' or 'you're getting on my nerves!'
Tu m'emmerdes avec ton bruit - You're pissing me off with your noise.
6. Faux cul
Quite a specific insult this - it basically means hypocrite, so you will need to get the context right, although it can probably be safely shouted at all politicians.
The words faux cul, sometimes written faux-cul, actually mean “false bottom”, or maybe “false ass”, given that cul is the vulgar French word for one's backside. Originally, faux cul described an apparatus worn under the dress by 19th century women (sometimes called a “bustle” in English), often along with a corset, in an attempt to emphasise their curves.


Because of the use of the faux cul to misrepresent one's appearance, it soon became a synonym for “hypocrite”, “phony” or “two-faced”. As in, Ce faux cul, il nous dit qu'il faut beaucoup travailler, mail il ne fait jamais rien. - "That hypocrite, he tells us that you have to work hard, but he never does anything."
Or - Elle m'avait dit précisément le contraire. Quel faux cul! "She told me exactly the opposite. What a phony!"
7. Raclure de bidet
Very much the nuclear option of insults, since you're describing someone as bidet scum, so probably best to keep this one for someone you are quite definite that you will never be friends with.
But if you'd like an inventive way to put someone in their place then you might want to crack out: T'es une raclure de bidet. - 'You bidet scum.'
8. Merde/connard/salope and . . . putain!
If you slightly balk at describing someone as the scrapings left at the bottom of a bidet, you could try some common or garden variety French swearing - merde (shit), salope (bitch) con or conard/conasse (asshole or dickhead - conasse is used for a woman) but the daddy of all French swearing is putain.
So fabulously versatile is this word that the French site of The Local devoted an entire article to its many uses.
Interestingly, although it's usually translated into English as 'fuck' it's not always a particularly strong word (although you still wouldn't say it to your grandma).
It all depends on how it's used. But if you're screaming Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculer ta mère (we blush to translate, let's just say it's very rude) at someone, then they'll probably get the idea that you are mildly perturbed.
But of course, it's highly likely that when you do finally blow your stack you'll forget all of these and only remember what you should have said much later.
And helpfully, French has a phrase for that too. Esprit d'escalier (literally translated as staircase wit) describes the moment when you think of a perfect retort for an argument - but only much later when the argument has finished.
It's said that 18th century French philosopher Diderot coined the phrase because he found that it was only by walking away from the argument, literally down the stairs, that he could he think of a suitable riposte.


Comments (1)

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May 2022/11/22 19:17
Well done. That was a well written, amusing and extremely helpful article. Thank you for writing it. I’ve lived almost 40 years here and I could’t have done better myself. In fact, I’m happy to say, I learned a lot. 😊

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