Notwithstanding Acadian French in the Maritime Provinces, Quebec French is the dominant form of French throughout Canada, with only very limited interregional variations. The terms Quebec French and Canadian French are therefore often used interchangeably.
A small list of words was published in 1969, mainly containing words that were archaic in France but still common in Quebec. This list especially contained imperial units and words from aboriginal languages. Subsequent lists have been published regularly since then.
There are a number of lexical differences between Quebec French and the French of France; these are distributed throughout the registers, from slang to formal usage.
Many differences that exist between Quebec French and European French arise from the preservation of certain forms that are today archaic in Europe. Obviously new words were also created for Quebec specialties that do not exist in Europe.
As with any two regional variants, there is an abundance of slang terms found in Quebec that are not found in France. Quebec French profanity uses references to Catholic liturgical terminology, rather than the references to prostitution that are more common in France. Many English words and calques have also been integrated in Quebec French, although less than in France. Borrowing from English is politically sensitive in Quebec and tends to be socially discouraged.
Also, rather than following the rule that the masculine includes the feminine, it is relatively common to create doublets, especially in polemical speech: Québécoises et Québécois, tous et toutes, citoyens et citoyennes.
As an isolated anecdote, a Quebec labour union once decided to promulgate an epicene neologism on the model of fidèle, calling itself the Fédération des professionnèles, rather than use either professionnels (masculine only) or professionnels et professionnelles (masculine and feminine). This sparked a fair amount of debate and is rather on the outer edge of techniques for nonsexist writing in Quebec French.
The adjectival suffix -euse is added to verbal stems to form "the machine that verbs." For example laver → laveuse "washing machine"; balayer → balayeuse "vacuum cleaner" (but "streetsweeper" in France). In France "vacuum cleaner" is "aspirateur".
|Quebec French||English||Metropolitan French||Note|
|achigan||black bass||perche noire|
|acre||acre||arpent||In Louisiana, an arpent is still a legal unit of measurement, and is not the same as an acre. Here, arpent is used both as a measure of length as well as space. Land was traditionally surveyed to either 40 or 80 arpents back from a river or bayou (1.5 or 3 miles). For measuring area, a square (English) mile contains 640 acres, but 512 arpents.|
|pinotte / arachide||peanut||cacahuète|
|avionnerie||aircraft manufacturing plant|
|banc de neige||snowdrift||congère|
|bebitte / bibitte||bug||bestiole / insecte|
|bleuet||blueberry||airelle à feuilles étroites / myrtille||see Quebec specialities section|
|bleuetière||blueberry field||bleuetterie (theoretically)|
|bordages||Ice stuck to the bank of a river|
|bouscueil||Jostling of ice under the effect of winds, tides, or streams|
|brûlot||A type of cranefly|
|cabane à sucre||sugar shack|
|cacaoui||oldsquaw||harelde boréale||A type of wild duck|
|canot||boat (not canoe)||Not the same as canoé or canoë|
|carcajou||wolverine (Am.), glutton (Br.)||glouton|
|ceinture fléchée||Assumption sash|
|chopine||pint||pinte||Pinte is used but refers to a quart|
|comté||riding||A type of administrative territorial division|
|coureur de(s) bois||backwoodsman, fur trader|
|débarbouillette||facecloth||gant de toilette (glove)|
|doré||walleye/blue pike perch/sauger/doré|
|épluchette||To husk corn; also designates a social gathering where people husk and eat corn|
|la fin de semaine||weekend||le week-end|
|Le magasinage/ Magasiner||Shopping/To go shopping||Les courses/Faire des courses / Faire les magasins||The word for "shop" or "store" in all varieties of French is le magasin. In Quebec, the verb magasiner, meaning "to shop," has been created naturally by the people, doing a simple conversion from the noun. In France, the expression is either faire des courses, faire des achats, or faire du shopping. No single verb exists.|
|orignal||moose (Am.), elk (Br.)||élan|
|ouananiche||freshwater salmon||saumon atlantique d'eau douce|
|outarde||Canada goose||bernache du Canada|
|poudrerie||blowing snow||rafale de (neige) poudreuse|
|pruche||Eastern hemlock||tsuga du Canada|
|suisse||eastern chipmunk||tamia rayé||Also sometimes, it is called "petit suisse" (tiny chipmunk) because when compared, it is smaller than a squirrel.|
|tire d'érable||maple taffy|
|verge / cours||yard|
The word breuvage is used for "[a] drink" in addition to boisson; this is an old French usage (bevrage) from which the English "beverage" originates. Breuvage may be used in European French, but generally indicates some nuance, possibly pejorative.
The word piastre or piasse, a slang term for a dollar (equivalent to "buck" or the English "quid"), was in fact the term originally used in French for the American or Spanish dollar (they had the same value for a long period).
The word couple is used in standard French as a masculine noun (a couple, married or unmarried), but in Quebec it is also used as a feminine noun in phrases like une couple de semaines (a couple of weeks). This is often thought to be an anglicism, but is in fact a preservation of an archaic French usage. This confusion is not as wrong-headed as might be thought, though, given that English itself includes French or Norman archaicisms (e.g. the pronunciation of an initial "ch" as /tʃ/).
It's also quite common in Quebec French to describe something positive using a double negative form, such as pas laid (not ugly) for beautiful when standard French would suggest using the positive equivalent instead. However, everyday Metropolitan French has its own double negatives: pas bête or pas con (smart); pas mal (fine); pas dégueu(lasse) (tasty); and pas top, pas super or pas génial (bad).
Blueberries, abundant in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, are called bleuets; in France, they are lumped together with myrtilles (bilberries) and bleuet means cornflower. (Bleuet is also slang for someone from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.) Though it should be noted that while very similar, these are not the same plants (i.e. myrtilles are Vaccinium myrtillus and bleuets are Vaccinium angustifolium).
A similar distinction in English, where, since the second person singular "thou" went out of use 200 years ago, might be whether to address or respond to someone on a "first-name basis". For example, one might say to a man that one has just met, "Thank you, Mr. Gibson" -- equivalent to using "vous". If Mr Gibson wants to maintain formality -- that is, similar to using "vous" -- he might say, "You're welcome", but if he wants to be more relaxed and familiar, he would say, "Call me Jim". This is similar to using "tu".
Metropolitan French speech and public speakers such as politicians can occasionally come across as stuffy or snobbish to some Quebec francophones. This is also true for people from southern France, who pronounce French differently from how Parisians do. Those from southern France who move temporarily to Paris and pick up the local Parisian accent may be derided by their friends who have remained in the south. It is similar to the perception North American English-speakers may have of British English ("upper-class" or "fancy").
Entire reference books have been written about idioms specific to Quebec. A handful of examples among many hundreds:
Dialog in sitcoms on Quebec television uses such idioms extensively, which can make some dialog rather incomprehensible to speakers of European French.
The expression "you're welcome" is bienvenue in Quebec, de rien in France; and the expression bonjour can be used for "goodbye" in Quebec, which it cannot in France (although it is more common to say au revoir or bye).
One of the more hazardous differences is the fact that gosses ("kids" in France) means "testicles" in Quebec. (Gosser means "to annoy.") This brought many hilarious situations involving French tourists making remarks about kids to their Quebecer parents. And boules, which means testicles in Europe, means breasts in Quebec.
Some slang terms unique to Quebec:
|Ben||very||Used informally for "Well...," on both sides. Ben, tu te souviens de cette encyclopédie sur Internet?. It is derived from the formal form Eh bien.|
|Bibitte||Small insect||Derived from bébête for small creature.|
|Blonde||Girlfriend||NB, the girlfriend in question could be a brunette!|
|Bobette(s)||Underwear||In Europe, it's "sous-vetements".|
|Brailler||To weep, to whine||In Europe, to scream, to speak very loudly (colloquial)|
|Char||Car||In Europe, a char is an army tank or a chariot.|
|Chum||Boyfriend; male friend||chum de fille = female friend|
|Crosser||To masturbate; to cheat||Verb is "To masturbate" in reflexive form only. Crosseur = wanker, swindler. In Europe = (se) branler, un branleur|
|Crier||To obtain||In Europe, to cry. See also pogner|
|Déguidine||stop procrastinating, get on with it, hurry up||Note that the second "d" is pronounced "dz". See also déniaise, envoye, enweye, awaye|
|Écœurant||Wonderful (ironically)||Literrally "nauseating", used ironically to mean something is overwhelmingly good, as an English speaker might say "so sweet I got a tooth ache". Note, someone calling you mon écœurant is not a term of endearment.|
|Envoye (enweye)(awaye)||Let's go, hurry up, come on||Often pronounced with a "w" sound, not with "v"|
|Faque||That said, so, that means||Contraction of "Fait que" or "Ça fait que". Also, in Europe, "Ce qui fait que...".|
|Fin / Fine||Nice, sweet (of a person)||Ine Europe = gentil, gentille|
|Flo||A kid (perhaps 10 years old or so)||Might possibly be an anglicism from "fellow"; European French = môme|
|Foufounes||Buttocks||Une foufoune (Eu) is an impolite sexual slang word for a vagina. Compare fanny.|
|Fret(te)||cold||Denotes something colder than merely froid|
|Le fun||fun, amusing (adjective, not noun, despite the le)||C'est très le fun; des jeux pas mal le fun|
|Gale or Galle||Scab||Possibly related to the disease.|
|Garrocher||To throw without caution|
|Genre||like||This slang is used as a parallel to the "like" word used by some American slang; the French word for like, comme, may also be used. These words appear often in the same sentence as the word tsé (tu sais = you know) as a form of slipped words within spoken structure. The use of voilà in this manner, although common in France, is not found in Canada.|
|Gollé||trench or ditch; from English gully|
|Grouiller||hurry up or move||This verb is often used in "grouille-toé", meaning "hurry up". Also used to mean that you move as in "grouille pas" (ne bouge pas), meaning "don't move". Same thing in Europe: Grouille-toi, Grouille tes puces (literally, Shake your fleas)|
|Guidoune||Prostitute, badly dressed woman|
|Jaser||To chat||Slandering chat is Eu., unusual.|
|Lutter||Hit with a car||Can be used as follows: "J'ai lutté un orignal" meaning "I hit a moose". Lutter in proper French means to wrestle.|
|Magané||Deteriorated, used, wrecked||Can also mean tired, sick or exhausted.|
|Mets-en||Totally, For sure, I'll say||Used in to agree with a statement.|
|Pantoute||Not at all||Contraction of pas en tout (pas du tout)|
|Pitoune||babe/chick (good looking girl); or floating log.||Depends on the context, from Occitan pichona [pi'tʃuno], meaning young girl|
|Plate||Boring, unfortunate||plat with the t pronounced|
|Pleumer||To vomit or used instead of "plumer"||To vomit when having nausea; "J'ai trop bu hier, j'ai pleumé partout".|
|Plotte||Vagina or promiscuous woman||Very vulgar, similar to the English "cunt"|
|Plumer||To pluck (literally, as plume = feather).||Secondly, it can be used as a verb to describe a beating in a game; "Je vais te plumer aux cartes" in the sense of plucking one's opponent's feathers; similar to the English expression to lose one's shirt. Finally, as a verb meaning to peel, as in "J'ai plumé quelques légumes".|
|Poche||stupid, untalented||Can also mean "unfortunate" (C'est poche ça as in C'est plate ça)|
|Pogner||get, grab||Can also mean to be sexually attractive, successful, or to have a loud argument with someone ("j'me suis pogné avec mon voisin")|
|Quétaine||kitsch, tacky, not in a good way|
|Tanné||Fed up, tired of|
|Taper, tomber sur les nerfs||To irritate someone||Only taper sur les nerfs in France.|
|Tête(s) carrée(s)||English-Canadians||Used only in Quebec, this term can be considered pejorative or even a racial slur. Literally square head(s) in English (possibly a back-formation from blockhead, and/or the British term bloke).|
|Tsé (Tu Sais)||You know||Used in the same way the French use vous savez and corresponds to the English version "you know" or the American version "y'know" (abbreviated structure). Often heard in the same sentence as the word genre as slang representing lack of clarity.|
|Se tasser||Move over||Eu: S'entasser: to be jammed in together. Ça se tasse: situation where spirits settle down after a scandal or quarrel|
|Maskinongé||Muskellunge (a pike)|
|Micouène||Large wooden spoon|
|Ouananiche||Land-locked variety of salmon|
Loanwords from English in French, as well as calques or loan syntaxic structures, are known as anglicisms (French: anglicisme).
The use of anglicisms in colloquial and Quebec French slang is commonplace. Some examples of long-standing anglicisms include:
use of preposition stranding
|Anglicism||Meaning||English word (cognate)|
|all-dressed||With all the toppings [pizza, etc]|
|bines||Pork and beans||beans|
|blood||(adj.) nice, generous [of a person]|
|chum||Male friend; boyfriend|
|chiffe/chiffre||A shift [work period at factory, etc]||shift|
|cruiser||Make a pass at||cruise|
|domper||To dump (a boyfriend or girlfriend)||dump|
|faker||To simulate, pretend (eg, orgasm)||fake|
|fan||A fan (of a band, a sports team), a ceiling fan|
|filer||To feel [guilty, etc]; when unmodified, to feel good; negated, to feel bad (j'file pas astheure)||feel|
|flocher||To flush (toilet); get rid of; dump [boyfriend/girlfriend]||flush|
|flyé||Extravagant, far out, over the top||fly|
|frencher||To French kiss||French|
|friend||A friend or acquaintance||friend|
|fucké||Broken, crazy||fucked up|
|game||Game, sports match or, used as an adjective, meaning having the courage to do something; "je suis game".|
|good||Good! [expressing approval; not as an adjective]|
|hot||Hot (excellent, attractive)|
|hotchicken||Hot chicken sandwich||hot chicken|
|lousse||Loose, untied, released||loose|
|pâte à dents||Toothpaste||calque of "toothpaste"|
|party||Party, social gathering|
|scramme||Scram! Get lost!|
|scrapper||Scrap, ruin, break, destroy, nullify||scrap|
|slacker||slacken, loosen; slack off, take it easy; fire [employee]||slack|
|smatte||Smart; wise-guy (either good or bad, as in smart ass); likeable [person]; cool;||smart|
|smoke meat||Montreal smoked meat (like pastrami)||smoked meat|
|toffer||Withstand, endure||tough it out|
|tripper||To be high, to be aroused, to enjoy||trip|
It is also very commonplace for an English word to be used as a nonce word, for example when the speaker temporarily cannot remember the French word. This is particularly common with technical words; indeed, years ago before technical documentation began to be printed in French in Quebec, an English word might be the most common way for a French-speaking mechanic or other technical worker to refer to the mechanisms he or she had to deal with.
It is often difficult or impossible to distinguish between such a nonce anglicism and an English word quoted as such for effect.
There are some anglicisms that have no obvious connection to any currently existing modern Canadian English idiom. For example, partir sur un nowhere ("leave on a 'nowhere'", to go on an adventurous trip without necessarily knowing your destination or perhaps even your travel companions); etre su'l party ("be on the 'party,'" to be partying or to be in the mood for a party).
As a result, especially with regard to in modern items, Quebec French often contains forms designed to be more "French" than an English borrowing that may be used anyway in European French, like fin de semaine which is week-end in France, or courriel (from courrier électronique) for France's mail or mel.
Some are calques into French of English phrases that Continental French borrowed directly, such as un chien chaud for European French hot dog. In Quebec, the spelling gai to mean homosexual is standard. Note that in France, gai has kept the original meaning of "happy", "cheerful" while "gay" is used to mean "homosexual" but specifically in reference to mass gay-American subculture and by those usually over 35 who identify as gay. Gay men in France 35 and under usual label themselves as "homo", not "gay".
Although many (not all) of these forms were promulgated by the Office québécois de la langue française (OLF) of Quebec, they have been accepted into everyday use. Indeed, the French government has since adopted the word courriel (in 2003). The term has been gaining acceptance as it is now used in respected newspapers such as Libération.
Several social groups, tied together by either a profession or an interest, use a part or all of the corresponding English jargon or slang in their domains, instead of that used in other French-speaking countries. English terms are, for example, very widely used in typically male jobs like engineering (notably mechanical engineering), carpentry, and computer programming. This situation was caused historically by a lack of properly translated technical manuals and documentation. Recent translation efforts in targeted domains such as the automotive industry and environmental engineering are yielding some encouraging results. The most English-ridden Quebec slang is without question used among members in the gamers community, who are also for the most part generation Y frequent computer users, where computer gaming slang is used as well as an enormous number of normal terms commonly found in computer applications and games (save, map, level, etc.).
Quebec and France tend to have entirely different anglicisms because in Quebec they are the gradual result of two and a half centuries of living among English speakers, whereas in Europe they are much more recent and result from the increasing international dominance of American English. Statistically, though, and rather counter-intuitively, the French use more anglicisms than the Québécois.
See also Franglais.
Here are some other differences between standard Quebec French and European French:
|Quebec term||Translation||Meaning of term in Europe||European term||Note|
|Auto||Car||car (childish or archaic)||Voiture|
|Abreuvoir||Water fountain||Watering place for animals||Fontaine||Used only for animals in Europe (or for comical effect)|
|Achalandage||Traffic (of a store, street, public transit)||Stock, merchandise, clientele (archaic)||Circulation, Embouteillage, bouchon|
|Arrêt||A stop or command to stop||Stop||Used on all stop signs. Also used as arrêt d'autobus, "prochain arrêt", etc.|
|Aubaine||Sale||Opportunity||Promotion||An item is une aubaine but en promotion|
|Baccalauréat||Bachelor's degree||High school leaving exam or diploma||Licence|
|Barrer||To lock||To block or to strike through||Fermer à clé, verrouiller||Quebec usage archaic in Europe|
|Bête||Disagreeable (person)||Stupid||Désagréable, impoli||European usage also used in Quebec|
|Bienvenue||"You're welcome"||Welcome here||De rien||European usage also used in Quebec, as well as De rien|
|Blé d'Inde||Maize||Maïs||Maïs also standard in Quebec|
|Cartable||Binder||School bag, Satchel||Classeur||See also classeur|
|Cédule||Schedule||Tax bracket (archaic)||Emploi du temps|
|Chandail||T-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt||Knit sweater||T-shirt, pull|
|Choquer||To anger||To shock||Fâcher|
|Classeur||Filing cabinet||Binder||Armoire à dossier||See also cartable|
|Correct||Good, sufficient, kind, O.K.||corrected||bon, beau, etc.|
|Coupe glacée||Ice cream sundae||de la glace au chocolat, de la glace aux fraises, etc.||An ice cream stand is known as a bar laitier (in France, a glacier)|
|Croche||Crooked; strange, dishonest||Eighth note||crochu; bizarre, biscornu, de travers, de traviole|
|Crème glacée||Ice cream||de la glace||An ice cream stand is known as a bar laitier (in France, a glacier)|
|Débarquer||Get out of (a car, etc.)||Disembark (from a boat)||Descendre|
|Débrouiller||To figure things out by onself, to get out of a jam||To clear up (from brouillard i.e. fog) as in one's thoughts|
|Déjeuner||Breakfast||Lunch||Petit déjeuner||See also dîner, souper. Qc. usage same as in Belgium and Occitania (Occitan dejunar [dedʒu'na]).|
|Déniaiser||To get ones act together||To clear up (from brouillard i.e. fog) as in one's thoughts|
|Dîner||Lunch||Dinner||Déjeuner||Qc. usage same as in Belgium and Occitania (Occitan dinnar [din'na]). Dîner as "dinner/evening meal" is standard in formal settings and upscale milieux, such as business, military, diplomatic circles, society dinner party, or an upscale restaurant. In Quebec, the evening meal is "le souper".|
|Efface||Eraser||Gomme||Gomme is used for chewing-gum|
|Épais||Dumb, slow-witted||Thick||Con||Con is also in usage in Quebec with the same meaning.|
|Espadrilles||Running shoes||Rope-soled sandal||Baskets|
|Être plein||To be full (from eating)||pleine: to be pregnant; to be drunk||Avoir trop mangé|
|Familiale||Station wagon||Estate car||Break|
|Fesser||To hit||To spank||Frapper|
|Football||Canadian football (can also mean American football, depending on context)||Association football||Football canadien; football américain or foot US||This usage of football to mean the local code is so uniform throughout Canada that the governing body for association football in Québec is officially the Fédération de soccer du Québec.|
|Innocent||Stupid [person]||Innocent, naive||Imbécile|
|Insignifiant||Stupid [person]||Insignificant, unremarkable||Imbécile|
|Liqueur||Carbonated beverage||Liquor, liqueur||Soda|
|Magasiner||To go shopping||Faire des courses, du lèche-vitrine, faire les magasins|
|Mouiller||To rain||To wet||Pleuvoir|
|Niaiser||Annoy, tease, kid, act up||(doesn't exist as a verb; niais="stupid")||Se moquer or (hum) dire des niaiseries||Déniaiser (Eu) is to make a man lose his virginity. J'avais juste vingt ans et je me déniaisais/ Au bordel ambulant d'une armée en campagne (Brel)|
|Niaiseux (niaiseuse)||An idiot, a fool, an annoying and childish person||niais="stupid", "simpleton"||Can be said to describe a thing too, like : "C'est donc ben niaiseux ce film là!"(this movie is really dumb!).|
|Niaiserie, Niaisage||Something that is dumb, childish, frivolous and a waste of time||Connerie||Usually used to describe things that a "Niaiseux" does.|
|Patate||Potato||Potato (informal term)||Pomme de terre||Tu es dans les patates!, told to someone who acts out of, or makes a statement while being unaware of what is going on. Europe = Être à côté de la plaque|
|Peser sur||Press (a button)||Weigh||Appuyer, enfoncer, pousser sur|
|La plaque (d'immatriculation)||License plate||License plate||Les plaques (mineralogiques)||The French license plate codes are based on a system developed by the mining authorities; Quebec requires only a rear plate on cars and pickup trucks. ("Les plaques d'immatriculation" is used on both sides, especially when speaking of vehicles registered in Switzerland, Ontario, Belgium, the Maritimes...)|
|Poudrerie||Blizzard, blowing snow||Gunpowder factory||Blizzard, tempête de neige, rafales de (neige) poudreuse|
|Rentrer||Enter||Re-enter||Entrer||In Quebec, "re-enter" is rerentrer|
|Soccer||Association football||Originally British slang for association football (see Oxford "-er"), but now considered an Americanism||Football||See note on Football above.|
|Souper||Dinner||Late-night dinner||Dîner||Quebec usage same as in Belgium and Occitania (Occitan sopar [su'pa]). See also déjeuner, dîner. In formal and upscale settings, the international practice is followed i.e. dîner is the evening meal while "souper" is a late-night, informal meal.|
|Suçon||Lollipop||Hickey||Sucette||and vice-versa: a sucette is a hickey or fellatio in Quebec|
|Téléroman||Soap opera||A soap opera or a continuing series||Feuilleton|
|Valise||Trunk of a car||Suitcase (also in QC)||Coffre|
|Vidanges||Garbage||Act of emptying||Ordures||Vidange in France is an oil change for the car (auto), and also an empty bottle in Belgium|
Many, but not all, of the European equivalents for the words listed above are also used or at least understood in Quebec.