French language Tips: mastering Verlan

Here are some of our French language tips to help you through life in France! If you thought the French language was difficult to master, try reversing it all, twisting it all around and turning it upside down.  

Ever met a young French person who has made fun of you for your French being too formal? Well, the French that we learn at school definitely does not translate effectively to everyday life, particularly amongst young people in France.

While it may be quite tricky, if you master this French slang, you will fit right in with the locals.

Verlan is a form of slang or ‘argot’ using the inversion of syllables of a word to say the same thing.  While this may be associated with the French youth of today, this slang is in fact derived from a long French tradition of transposing syllables of individual words to create slang words.

Fun fact: the word verlan itself comes from inverting the syllables of the word ‘l’envers‘, which itself means ‘the inverse’ in French!

Fun fact: Verlan is a language that has been passed down verbally so words take on an approximate spelling. The word verlan itself is more likely to be spelt versl’en as an inversion of the syllables of ‘l’envers’.

Here are some examples of verlan that you can easily incorporate into your daily life to impress your French friends:

  • Cimer is the velan of merci meaning Thank you
  • Ouf  is the verlan of fou meaning crazy, this particular word is often used by the French youth when saying that something is crazy like crazy cool!
  • Meuf is the verlan of femme meaning woman
  • Bléca is the verlan of cablé meaning trendy or ‘in’
  • Chelou is the verlan of louche meaning shady or dubious
  • Jourbon is the verlan of bonjour meaning hello

Verlan is used a lot in French music. Make sure to read our article on the French song for this month which shows a popular incorporation of a verlan word. You can find the article HERE