B2 High-Intermediate US 101303 Folder Collection
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French Phrases Hidden in English Words
A lot of English words come from French words that we borrowed, but some English words contain whole French phrases within them.
Let's take a 'petite' tour!
What is vinegar but sour wine?
And that's exactly where the word comes from, too. Vinegar is 'vin aigre', or sour wine.
"Curfew" goes back to the medieval regulation, where the village bell would ring in the evening as a signal for everyone to put out their fires.
Hence curfew, 'couvre feu' or cover fire.
A dandelion has notched, pointed petals that look a bit... like lion's teeth?
In any case, that's where we get the word dandelion from, French 'dent de lion', or lion's tooth.
We also get our name for the spikiest animal we know from a French phrase.
A porcupine is a 'porc épine' or spiky pig.
Denim, that coolest of cool American looks, got its start as a twill fabric from Nîmes, a southern French city known for textile manufacturing.
Denim is from Nîmes, 'de Nîmes'.
Ok, it's pretty obvious that debonair is a French word, but have you ever broken it down?
'De bon air', of good air. A debonair person has a good disposition, a nice air about them.
A mortgage is a type of pledge.
If the loan can't be paid, the lender gets the property. If the loan is paid off, the property is the borrower's.
When either one of those things happens, the pledge dies; the mortgage is a death pledge, 'mort gage'.
"Mayday!" is a distress signal for when you really need help.
It comes from 'venez m'aider!' or "Come help me!"
And this little tour of French phrases should help you get to know these English words a little bit better.
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French Phrases Hidden in English Words

101303 Folder Collection
Ashley Lai published on September 6, 2016    Clément translated    Mandy Lin reviewed
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