France Languages

From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 14:57, 17 November 2009 by ParkinPW (talk | contribs)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Most materials used in French research, including former French colonies in Africa, Asia, the Carribean and North America, are written in French. However, you do not need to speak or read French to do research in French records. You merely need to know some key numbers, words, and phrases to understand the records.

Infrequently you may find other languages in French records. These include Latin, German, Italian, and Breton. Latin is sometimes found in Roman Catholic parish registers, but it is unusual to find it in baptism, marriage, and burial records, except in Alsace-Lorraine. German is also frequently found in records from Alsace-Lorraine. Records from Corse, especially before 1768, may be in Italian. Some records from Savoie and Nice are in Italian, especially before 1792 and from 1815-1859. Breton is spoken in Bretagne but is only rarely found in records useful to family historians.

French grammar and customs may affect the way names appear in genealogical records. For example, the names of your ancestor may vary from record to record in French. For help in understanding name variations, see the "Names, Personal" section.

Language Aids[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has genealogical word lists for French, German, and Latin. The French Word list is found below at the end of this section and contains French words of value in genealogical research translated into English.

The Family History Library's separate Germany Research Topics includes an example of the German (Gothic) alphabet in print and handwriting.

The following books and English-French dictionaries can also help you in your research. You can find these and similar material at many research libraries.

French records extraction. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, [198-?]. (Family History Library book 944 D27f; fiche 6068523.) Text in English. Shows examples of French civil and parish records, translations of common words found in them, personal name lists, and handwriting examples.

New Cassell's French dictionary: French-English, English-French. New York, NY, USA: Funk & Wagnalls, 1970. (Family History Library book 443.21 C272; not on microfilm.)

Additional language aids (including dictionaries of various dialects and time periods) are listed in the Family History Library Catalog in the Place search under FRANCE - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES or in the Subject search under FRENCH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES.

French Word List
[edit | edit source]

This list contains French words with their English translations. The words included here are those you are likely to find in genealogical sources. If the word you are looking for is not on this list, please consult a French-English dictionary. (See the "Additional Resources" section below.)

The French language is a Romance language derived from Latin. Although English is a Germanic language, it has many words of Latin and French derivation. Thus, many French words are similar to words in English but often have different meanings.

French is spoken in France; Quebec and other areas of Canada; Luxembourg; southern Belgium; southwestern Switzerland; northern and central Africa; some islands in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Caribbean Sea; southeast Asia; and other areas formerly colonized or influenced by the French.

Between about 1800 and 1812, French was also used in records of the Rhineland area of Germany, northern Belgium, and the Netherlands. In addition, French is found in some early records of Louisiana and a few other places in the United States. Since about 1680, the grammar, if not the spelling, of official written French has been fairly well standardized throughout the world, even though there are many different forms of spoken French.

Language Characteristics[edit | edit source]

French words for persons, places, and things (nouns) are classified as masculine or feminine. Generally, adjectives used to describe feminine words end with e.

Le (masculine form of the) is used with masculine words. La (feminine form of the) is used with feminine words. But l’ is used with either if the word begins with a vowel. For example, the word enfant means child or infant, either masculine or feminine. But l’enfant est né (the child is born) is used with a male child, and l’enfant est née with a female child.

Variant Forms of Words[edit | edit source]

In French, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who—whose—whom or marry—marries— married are examples of words in English with variant forms. This word list gives the standard form of each French word. As you read French records, you will need to be aware that some words vary with usage.

Plural forms of French words are usually created by adding s or x to the singular word. Thus frère becomes frères, and beau becomes beaux. The plural of beau-frère (brother-in-law) is beaux-frères (brothers-in-law).

In French there are five diacritical (accent) marks. These are placed over vowels or under the letter c to indicate a change in pronunciation. The following diacritical marks are used in French: à, â, é, è, ê, ë, î, ï, ô, ö, û, ù and ç. The ç is pronounced as an s. These diacritical marks do not affect alphabetical order.

Spelling[edit | edit source]

Spelling rules were not fixed in earlier centuries. In French the following spelling variations are common:

Variation Example

  • bv used for v février spelled febvrier
  • c used for ss aussi spelled auci
  • ct used for t faites spelled faictes
  • es used for é témoins spelled tesmoins
  • I used for j jour spelled iour
  • o used for ou tournier spelled tornier
  • os used for ô nôtre spelled nostre
  • sç used for s savoir spelled sçavoir
  • t used for tt cette spelled cete
  • y used for i hier spelled hyer
  • y used for ill filleul spelled fyeul
  • z used for s baptisé spelled baptizé

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

This word list includes only words most commonly found in genealogical sources. For further help, consult a French-English dictionary. You can obtain a French-English dictionary at most public libraries and through many bookstores.

Several French-English dictionaries are available at the Family History Library. These are in the European collection. Their call numbers begin with 443.21.

The following dictionary is available on microfilm for use in Family History Centers:

A. Spiers. The Standard Pronouncing Dictionary of the French and English Languages. New York, NY, USA: Appleton, 1900. (FHL book 443.21 Sp44s, film 1181694 item 4.)

Additional dictionaries are listed in the Subject search of the Family History Library Catalog under FRENCH LANGUAGE—DICTIONARIES.

A helpful guide for reading genealogical records written in French is:

French Records Extraction. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d. (FHLfiche 6068523.) In addition to being a glossary of names and genealogical words, this guide includes examples of French documents and instructions in reading the handwriting.

Key Words[edit | edit source]

To find and use specific types of French records, you will need to know some key words in French. This section gives key genealogical terms in English and the French words with the same or similar meanings.

For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find French words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, legitimate, joined, and other words used in French records to indicate marriage.

English French
banns publications bans
baptism baptême
birth naissance, né, née
'burial 'sépulture, enterrement, enterré, inhumé, enseveli, funèbre
Catholic catholique romaine
child enfant
christening baptême
civil registry registres de l’état civil, mairie, maison communale, hôtel deville
death décès, mort, expiré, inanimé, défunt


husband mari, époux, marié
index tables répertoire
Jewish juif, juive, israélite, hébreu
marriage mariage, alliance, unir, épouser
month mois, mensuel
mother mère
name, given prénom, nom de baptême
name, surname nom, nom de famille
parents parents, père et mère
parish paroisse, paroissiaux, paroissiale
Protestant protestant, réformé, huguenot, R.P.R., luthérien, calviniste
town, village ville, village, hameau, commune
wife femme, épouse, mariée

an, année, annuel


General Word List[edit | edit source]

This general word list includes words commonly seen in genealogical sources. Numbers, months, and days of the week are listed both here and in separate sections that follow this list. Words with the same spelling and meaning in English and French, such as confirmation or date, are not included in this list.

In this list, optional versions of French words or variable endings are given in parentheses. A few phrases are listed under the key word, not necessarily the first word. Words in parentheses in the English column clarify the definition. Feminine or masculine meanings of French words are indicated by (f.) or (m.).

Return to top of page



à at, to, in
a has
abjurations renunciations of Protestant faith
absolution absolution, last rites
accoucher give birth
accoucheuse midwife
à cet endroit in this place
acheter to buy
acte de baptême baptismal record
acte de décès death record
acte de naissance birth certificate, record
acte de sépulture burial record
adjoint du maire mayor’s assistant
adopté(e) adopted
adultère adulterer
affiché posted (on door)
afficher les bans post banns
âgé(e) aged
ai (ay) I have
aïeul grandfather
aïeule grandmother
aîné (l’aîné) the older, senior
ainsi que as well as
à jour current
Algerie Algeria
alité bedridden
Allemand(e) German
alliance marriage
Alsacien(ne) Alsatian
ami(e) friend
an (année) year
anabaptiste Mennonite
anglais(e) English
anniversaire anniversary
annuaire directory
annuel annual, yearly
août August
apparu appeared
appelé(e) named
apprenti apprentice
approuvé approved
après after
après-midi afternoon
arbre généalogique family tree, pedigree
archives archive
Archives du Royaume state archives (Belgium)
Archives Nationales state archives (France)
a reçu has received
armoiries coat of arms
arpent acre
arpenteur surveyor
arpète errand boy, apprentice
arrière great (as in great-grandparents)
arrondissement district (administrative division of a French département)
attaque seizure
au at the, in the
aubergiste innkeeper
aucun(e) no, none
au dessus over
aujourd’hui today
au même endroit at the same place
auparavant former
aussi also, as, since
autant as much
autorisation permission
autour around
autre other
avant former, before
avant-hier the day before yesterday
avec with
avocat attorney
avoir to have
avons (we) have
avril April
ayant having



ban (le) the territory
bans marriage banns, announcement(s)
baptême baptism
baptême d’urgence emergency baptism
baptisé baptized
baptisé sous condition conditionally baptized
Baptiste Baptist
bas low, lower
batisseur builder
beau-fils son-in-law, stepson
beau-frère brother-in-law, stepbrother
beau-père father-in-law, stepfather
bêcheur field worker
Belge Belgian
belle-fille daughter-in-law, stepdaughter
belle-mère mother-in-law, stepmother
belle-soeur sister-in-law, stepsister
berger shepherd
bien well
biens goods, property
biographie biography
blanc (blanche) white
bon (bonne) good
bonne maid, female servant
boucher butcher
boulanger baker
bourgeois citizen, member of the middle class
bourguignon Burgundian
bouvier herdsman, cowherd
brasseur brewer
brassier farmworker, laborer (old word)
Bretagne Brittany
[oncle à la mode de Bretagne] [first cousin of one’s parent]
briquetier brick maker
bru daughter-in-law
brumaire See “Months”
bureau office



cabaretier barkeeper
canton administrative division of an arrondissement (in France), province (in Switzerland), township (in French Canada)
carte map
catholique romaine Roman Catholic
ce, c’ it
ce, cet, cette this, that
céans here within
cejourd’hier yesterday
cejourd’hui today
célèbre famous
célibataire bachelor, unmarried, single
celle this one, she
celle-ci the latter (f.)
celle-là the former (f.)
celui this one, he
celui-ci the latter (m.)
celui-là the former (m.)
cent hundred
centième hundredth
certificat certificate
ceux those
charbonnier charcoal burner
charcutier pork merchant
charretier cart or carriage man
charron cartwright, wheelwright
chasseur hunter
château castle
châtelain owner of a castle
chaudronnier cooper, barrel maker
chez at the home of
chirurgien surgeon
ci-dessous below here
ci-dessus above here
cimetière cemetery
cinq five
cinquante fifty
cinquantième fiftieth
cinquième fifth
citoyen(ne) citizen
clergé clergymen
colline hill
communauté community (of goods), religious community
commune town, commune (smallest political division in France)
communion communion
compagnon journeyman, partner
comparu appeared
comprend includes
comte count
concubine concubine
congestion cérébrale stroke
conjoint spouse, assistant
connaissance acquaintance
conseil d’état civil civil registrar’s
conseiller councilor
consentement consent
contenu content
contractant the groom (in a marriage record)
contractante the bride (in a marriage record)
contrat de mariage marriage contract
contre against
coqueluche whooping cough
cordier rope maker
cordonnier shoemaker
côte hill
couches bed, marital bed
[morte en couches] [died in childbirth]
coup de sang paralytic stroke
cour court
courant current
cousin(e) cousin
cousin(e) germain(e) first cousin
couvreur roofer
culte religion
cultivateur farmer, cultivator
curateur guardian
curé parish minister, pastor, priest, clergyman 



d’ of
dame lady
dans in
de of, from, out
décapité decapitated
décédé the deceased
décembre December
décennal(e) decennial
décennie decade
décès death, deaths
déclarant informant
déclaré declared, stated
décrépitude old age
défunt(e) deceased
dehors outside
de la of the, some
demain tomorrow
demeurant living at
demi half
demi frère stepbrother, half brother
demi soeur stepsister, half sister
demoiselle Miss (of well-to-do parents, may be a married woman)
département department (French “county” since 1790)
depuis since
derniers sacrements last rites
des of the, some
desdits of the said (pl.)
dessous lower, below
dessus above
deux two
deuxième second
devant in front of
devenir to become
devoir should
d’hier yesterday’s
dictionnaire dictionary
dictionnaire des communes gazetteer
dimanche Sunday
dîme tithing
diocèse diocese
dispense exemption, dispensation
dit(e) (ditte) said, also known as, aforementioned
divers(e) various
divorcé(e) divorced
dix ten
dix-huit eighteen
dix-huitième eighteenth
dixième tenth
dix-neuf nineteen
dix-neuvième nineteenth
dix-sept seventeen
dix-septième seventeenth
domaine estate
domestique servant girl, maid
domicile home, residence, domicile
donné given
donner to give
dons donations
dont of whom, of which
double duplicate record
douze twelve
douzième twelfth
droguiste druggist
droit(e) right
du of the, some
duc duke
duché duchy
duchesse duchess
durant during 



eaux-et-forêts waters and forests, forestry service
ébéniste cabinetmaker, furniture maker
échevin alderman, municipal magistrate
école school
écrire to write
écrit written, document
écrivain scribe, writer
église church
elle she, her
elles they (f.)
émigrant(e) emigrant
émigré(e) emigrant
empêchement prevention
employé(e) clerk
en in
enceinte pregnant
encore again
endroit place
enfant baby, child
enfant exposé foundling
enfant trouvé foundling
enflement swelling
ensemble together
entend intends, hears
enterré(e) buried
enterrement burial, interment
entre between, among
environ about, approximately
épicier grocer, spice merchant
épousailles wedding
épouse bride, wife
époux bridegroom, husband
Espagnol(e) Spanish
est is, east
et and
étaient were
était was
étant (estant) being
état state
état civil civil registration
été been, summer
étranger foreign, foreigner, strange
être to be
[un être] [a being]
évéché diocese
évêque bishop
exécuté performed
expédié(s) sent
extérieur outside
extrait extract 



fabricant de bas maker of stockings
fabricant de savon maker of soap
facteur postman, mailman
facture account, bill
faiblesse weakness
fait(e) made, done
famille family, relative(s)
féminin female
femme wife, woman
ferblantier tin man, tinsmith
fermier farmer
fête holiday, feast
feu(e) deceased, the late
feuille folio, leaf, page
février February
fiançailles engagement
fiançé betrothed, engaged, fiancé (m.)
fiançée betrothed, engaged, fiancée (f.)
fiancer to become engaged
fichier card index
fièvre fever
fileuse spinster
fille daughter, girl
fille de mauvaise vie prostitute
fils son
floréal See “Months”
fonction duty, occupation, function
[faisant les fonctions] [doing the functions (occupation), serving as]
fonts (baptismal) font
forestier forester
forêt forest
forgeron smith
forteresse fortress
frais fee
Français(e) French
franc-tenancier freeholder, yeoman
frère brother
frère consanguin brother by the same father but different mother
frère germain brother by the same mother and father
frère utérin brother by the same mother but different father
frimaire See “Months”
fromager cheese merchant or maker
frontière border
fructidor See “Months”
funèbre funeral
furent were
fut was
futur fiancé, the intended groom
future fiancée, the intended bride 



garçon boy, unmarried young man
garde champêtre field guard
garde forestier forest guard
gardien herdsman
gauche left
gendarme policeman
gendre son-in-law
généalogique genealogical
géomètre surveyor
germinal See “Months”
goutte gout
grand(e) large, great, tall
grandmère grandmother
grandparents grandparents
grandpère grandfather
greffier clerk of the court, registrar 



habitant residing
habitation residence
habiter to inhabit
haut high, upper
hectare acre
héraldique heraldry
héritage inheritance
heure hour, time
hier yesterday
histoire story, history
Hollandais(e) Dutch
homme man
homme de main day worker
honnête honest
horloger clock merchant or maker
houilleur coal miner
Huguenot(te) Huguenot
huissier usher, doorman
huit eight
huitante eighty
huitantième eightieth
huitième eighth
hydropisie dropsy, edema 



icelle this one (f.)
icelui this one (m.)
ici here
id. (Latin) the same
identique same, alike, similar
il he
illégitime illegitimate
immigrant(e) immigrant
imposé imposed, gave
impôts taxation
inconnu(e) unknown
inférieur(e) lower
instituteur schoolteacher (m.)
institutrice schoolteacher (f.)
intérieur inside
inventaire après décès inventory after death
Italien(ne) Italian 



jamais never
janvier January
jardinier gardener
je I
jeudi Thursday
jeune young, the younger, junior
jeûne fasting, fast day
jour day
jour de baptême day of baptism
jour d’hier, le yesterday
journalier day laborer, farmworker
jour suivant the following day
juge judge
Juif Jewish, Jew
juillet July
juin June
Juive Jewish, Jewess
jumeaux twins (male, or male and female)
jumelles twins (female)
juré juryman 



kilomètre kilometer



l’ the (m. and f.)
la the (f.)
là there
laboureur plowman, farmer (man with team and plow)
lac lake
laisser let, leave, allow
laquelle which (f.)
le the (m.)
lecture reading
légal(e) legal
légitime legitimate
lendemain following day
lequel which (m.)
les the (plural)
lesquels which (plural)
leur their, to them
lieu place
livre book
livret de famille family register
loi law
lui him, to him
lundi Monday
Luxembourgeois(e) Luxembourger



M. sir, Mr.
maçon mason, bricklayer
Madame Mrs.
Mademoiselle unmarried woman, Miss
magister village schoolmaster
mai May
maire mayor
mairie town hall
mais but
maison house
[maison communale] [town hall]
maître master
maître d’école schoolteacher
majeur of legal age, (older)
majorité legal age, majority
maladie disease, sickness
maraîcher market gardener
marchand merchant
marchant trader, merchant
marché market
mardi Tuesday
maréchal ferrant blacksmith
mari husband
mariage marriage, wedding
marié groom, husband, married (m.)
mariée bride, wife, married (f.)
marier (se marier) to get married
mariés the married ones
marin sailor
Marocain(e) Moroccan
marraine godmother
mars March
masculin male, masculine
matin early (a.m.), morning
mégisseur tanner
membre member
même the same, even
mendiant beggar
menuisier joiner, carpenter
mercredi Wednesday
mère mother
mériter to be worthy
messe Catholic mass
messidor See “Months”
métayer dairy keeper, cowherd, sharecropper
métier trade, occupation, profession
métis, métisse mixed blood
meunier miller
midi noon
mil thousand
militaire military
mille thousand
millième thousandth
mineur under legal age, younger, minor
minorité under legal age, minority
minuit midnight
mis(e) en terre buried
Mlle Mademoiselle, Miss
Mme Madame, Mrs.
moi me
mois month
Monsieur sir, Mr.
montagne hill, mountain
mort(e) dead, death
mort né stillborn
moulin mill
mourant dying
mourir to die
moyen(ne) middle, median, central                                                                                                                       mulâtre mulatto
muni des sacrements de l’Eglise furnished with the (last) rites of the church



naissance birth
naturel illegitimate (not always true)
né(e) born
née maiden name
négociant trader, businessman
neuf nine
neuvième ninth
neveu nephew
ni neither, nor
nièce niece
nivôse See “Months”
noble nobleman
noblesse nobility
noces wedding
noir(e) black
nom name, surname
nom de famille surname, last name
nommé(e) named, alias
non not
nonante ninety
nonantième ninetieth
nord north
Norman(de) Norman
notaire notary
notes remarks
nôtre (nostre) our
nous we, us
nouveau, nouvelle new
novembre November
noyé(e) drowned
nuit night
numéro number
nuptial(e) bridal, pertaining to a wedding



obsèques funeral, burial
octante eighty
octantième eightieth
octobre October
oncle uncle
ondoyé(e) baptized provisionally
ont (they) have
onze eleven
onzième eleventh
orphelin(e) orphan
ou or
où where
ouest west



page page
Palatinat Palatinate, Pfalz
par by
pareil(le) same, alike, similar
parent parent, relative
paroisse parish (office)
parrain godfather
part portion, part
[d’une part] [on the one hand]
[et d’autre part] [and on the other hand]
pas not
pas encore not yet
passé past
pasteur pastor
pâtissier pastry maker
pâtre herdsman
pauvre indigent, poor
pays land, country
paysan(ne) small farmer, peasant
pêcheur fisher
peintre painter
penultième day before the last
percer des dents teething
père father
petit small, little
petite-fille granddaughter
petite noblesse gentry
petit-fils grandson
petit propriétaire yeoman
peuple citizens
peut-être maybe, perhaps
pharmacien pharmacist
pièces documents
pied terrier land record
place place
plus, en besides, in addition to
plus âgé(e) older, elder, oldest, eldest
plus vieux older, elder, oldest, eldest
pluviôse See “Months”
policier policeman
pont bridge
population population
porte door
Portugais(e) Portuguese
poser place, put
pour for
pourquoi why
prairial See “Months”
précédent(e) previous, preceding
préfet prefect (the head of a département in France)
premier, première first
prénom given (first) name
près de next to
présenté presented
prêtre clergyman, priest
preuve proof
principalité principality
prochain(e) following, next, nearest
proche parent close relative
professeur professor, teacher
propos de, à about, concerning
propriétaire owner, proprietor
protestant Protestant
provincial(e) provincial
Prussien(ne) Prussian
publié published, announced
publier publish



quand when
quarante forty
quarantième fortieth
quartier district or neighborhood in a city
quatorze fourteen
quatorzième fourteenth
quatre four
quatre-vingt-dix ninety
quatre-vingt-dixième ninetieth
quatre-vingt eighty
quatre-vingtième eightieth
quatrième fourth
que (qu’) what, which, that
qui who, whom
quinze fifteen
quinzième fifteenth
quoi what



recensement census
recherche research
reconnu recognized, acknowledged
reçu(e) received
réformé(e) Reformed/Calvinist
régisseur farm manager, steward
registre register
registres d’état civil registers of births, civil marriages, and deaths
registres paroissiaux parish registers
reine queen
religion religion
religion prétendue réformé (R.P.R.) Reformed Church, Huguenot
rentier(e) retired person living from rents, landlord
répertoire register, index
répertoire toponymique gazetteer
République Française French Republic
retraité formerly employed, retired
revue periodical
rien nothing
rivière stream, river
roi (roy) king
rouge red
rougeole measles
royaume kingdom
rue street
Russe Russian



sa his, her, its
sabotier wooden-shoe maker
sacristain sacristan, sexton
sage-femme midwife
saignement bleeding
sain sane, healthy
saints sacrements last rites
samedi Saturday
sans without
sans vie without life, lifeless
savoir to know, namely
savonnier soap merchant, soapmaker
saxon Saxon
scarlatine scarlet fever
sceau seal
scieur sawyer
Seigneur the Lord
seize sixteen
seizième sixteenth
selon according to
semaine week
sénilité old age
sept seven
septante seventy
septantième seventieth
septembre September
septième seventh
sépulture burial
seront (they) will be
serrurier locksmith
servante maid, servant girl
ses his, her, its
seul(e) single, alone
seulement only
sexe sex
siècle century
signature signature
signé signed
six six
sixième sixth
société society
soeur sister
soeur consanguine sister by the same father but different mother
soeur germaine sister by the same mother and father
soeur utérine sister by the same mother but different father
soir (soirée) evening
soixante sixty
soixante-dix seventy
soixante-dixième seventieth
soixantième sixtieth
soldat soldier
son his, her, its
sont are
sous under, low
soussigné the undersigned
souvent often
statut légal status, condition
statut personnel status, condition
sud south
Suisse Swiss
suivant(e) next, following, according to
supérieur(e) upper
sur on, above, upon, at
surlendemain two days later
survivant surviving
sus-dit aforementioned
susnommé aforementioned



table index
tables décennales ten-year indexes
tailleur cloth maker, draper
tailleur de pierre stonecutter
tailleur d’habits tailor
tanneur tanner
tant as, so much
tante aunt
tantôt afternoon
tavernier tavern owner
teinturier dyer
témoin witness
temps time
tenir un enfant sur les fonts to act as godfather or godmother to a child
terre earth, land
terres estate
testament last will
thermidor See “Months”
tisserand weaver
tisserand de lin linen weaver
tisseur weaver
tome volume
tonnelier cooper
tôt early (a.m.)
toujours always
tournier turner, woodworker
tous all
tous les deux both
toux cough
travailleur worker, laborer
travers, à through, across
treize thirteen
treizième thirteenth
trente thirty
trente-et-un thirty-one
trente-et-unième thirty-first
trentième thirtieth
tribunal court
trois three
troisième third
tuilier tile maker
tumeurv tumor
tuteur guardian



un, une a, an, one
unième first
unis en mariage united in marriage



valet servant
vallée valley
varie various
variole smallpox
veille previous evening or day
vendémiaire See “Months”
vendeur seller, salesman
vendeuse seller, saleslady
vendredi Friday
ventôse See “Months”
vérole venereal disease, syphilis
vérole, petite smallpox
verrier glassmaker
vers toward
vert green
veuf widowed, widower
veuve widowed, widow
vie life
vieillesse old age
vierge virgin, unmarried woman
vieux (vielle) old
vieux garçon bachelor
vigneron grape grower
village hamlet, village
ville village or town, city
vingt twenty
vingt-cinq twenty-five
vingt-cinquième twenty-fifth
vingt-deux twenty-two
vingt-deuxième twenty-second
vingt-et-un twenty-one
vingt-et-unième twenty-first
vingt-huit twenty-eight
vingt-huitième twenty-eighth
vingtième twentieth
vingt-neuf twenty-nine
vingt-neuvième twenty-ninth
vingt-quatre twenty-four
vingt-quatrième twenty-fourth
vingt-sept twenty-seven
vingt-septième twenty-seventh
vingt-six twenty-six
vingt-sixième twenty-sixth
vingt-trois twenty-three
vingt-troisième twenty-third
vivant living, lifetime
vivant, de son during his (her) life
vivre to live
voir see
voisin(e) neighbor
vouloir to wish, to want



In some genealogical sources, numbers are written out. This is especially true with dates. The following list gives the cardinal (1, 2, 3) and the ordinal (1st, 2nd, 3rd) versions of each number. Dates are usually written in ordinal form. Ordinal numbers are made by adding ième to the cardinal form of a number. If the number ends in an e, drop the e before adding ième.

From 60 to 99, the French count by twenties rather than by tens. Thus, 70 in French is sixty-ten, and 71 is sixty-eleven. The number 80 is four-twentie;, 81 is four-twenties-one; 91 is four-twenties-eleven; and so on through 99, which is four-twenties-nineteen. In some areas, however, you will see the older style of 70 (septante), 80 (octante or huitante), and 90 (nonante).

Cardinal Ordinal
1 un 1st premier
2 deux 2nd deuxième
3 trois 3rd troisième
4 quatre 4th quatrième
5 cinq 5th cinquième
6 six 6th sixième
7 sept 7th septième
8 huit 8th huitième
9 neuf 9th neuvième
10 dix 10th dixième
11 onze 11th onzième
12 douze 12th douzième
13 treize 13th treizième
14 quatorze 14th quatorzième
15 quinze 15th quinzième
16 seize 16th seizième
17 dix-sept 17th dix-septième
18 dix-huit 18th dix-huitième
19 dix-neuf 19th dix-neuvième
20 vingt 20th vingtième
21 vingt-et-un 21st vingt-et-unième
22 vingt-deux 22nd vingt-deuxième
23 vingt-trois 23rd vingt-troisième
24 vingt-quatre 24th vingt-quatrième
25 vingt-cinq 25th vingt-cinquième
26 vingt-six 26th vingt-sixième
27 vingt-sept 27th vingt-septième
28 vingt-huit 28th vingt-huitième
29 vingt-neuf 29th vingt-neuvième
30 trente 30th trentième
31 trente-et-un 31st trente-et-unième
40 quarante 40th quarantième
50 cinquante 50th cinquantième
60 soixante 60th soixantième
70 soixante-dix, 70th soixante-dixième
septante septantième
71 soixante-onze, 71st soixante-onzième
septante-un septante-et-unième
80 quatre-vingt(s) 80th quatre-vingtième
octante octantième
huitante huitantième
90 quatre-vingt-dix 90th quatre-vingt-dixième
nonante nonantième
99 quatre-vingt-dix- 99th quatre-vingt-dix-
neuf, nonante- neuvième, nonante-
neuf neuvième
100 cent 100th centième
1000 mil, mille 1000th millième

Return to top of page



In French records, dates are often written out. For example:

Le vingt-trois mars mil sept cent soixante dix-neuf [on the twenty-third day of March, in the year one thousand seven hundred sixty and nineteen (1779)]

To understand French dates, use the following lists as well as the preceding “Numbers” section.


English French
January janvier
February février
March mars
April avril
May mai
June juin
July juillet
August août
September septembre, 7bre
October octobre, 8bre
November novembre, 9bre
December décembre, 10bre, Xbre



In French records, dates are often written out. For example:

Le vingt-trois mars mil sept cent soixante dix-neuf [on the twenty-third day of March, in the year one thousand seven hundred sixty and nineteen (1779)]

To understand French dates, use the following lists as well as the preceding “Numbers” section.


English French
January janvier
February février
March mars
April avril
May mai
June juin
July juillet
August août
September septembre, 7bre
October octobre, 8bre
November novembre, 9bre
December décembre, 10bre, Xbre

During the years 1792 to 1806, the French used a unique calendar that related to the founding of the French Republic. It included the following months:

vendémiaire brumaire frimaire
nivôse pluviôse ventôse
germinal floréal prairial
messidor thermidor fructidor

These month names cannot be translated because they do not correspond to the months we know as January to December. See the French Republican Calendar Research Outline (34046).

Days of the Week

English French
Sunday dimanche
Monday lundi
Tuesday mardi
Wednesday mercredi
Thursday jeudi
Friday vendredi
Saturday samedi

Times of the Day

In French birth and death records, the registrar often indicated the exact time of day when the birth or death occurred. This is usually written out.

French English
à cinq heures at 5 o’clock
au matin in the morning
au soir in the evening
après-demain the day after tomorrow
après-midi afternoon
avant-veille two days before
avant-hier day before yesterday
demain tomorrow
du matin in the morning, a.m.
du soir in the evening, p.m.
heure hour
hier yesterday
hier soir yesterday evening
hier au soir yesterday evening
jour day
lendemain next day
matin morning
midi noon
minuit midnight
nuit night
soir evening
surlendemain two days later
veille previous evening

Paper publication: Second edition 1997. English approval: 4/97.