The majority of French words derive from Vulgar Latin or were constructed from Latin or Greek roots. In many cases a single etymological root appears in French in a "popular" or native form, inherited from Vulgar Latin, and a learned form, borrowed later from Classical Latin. The following pairs consist of a native noun and a learned adjective:
However, a historical tendency to gallicise Latin roots can be identified, whereas English conversely leans towards a more direct incorporation of the Latin:
There are also noun-noun and adjective-adjective pairs:
It can be difficult to identify the Latin source of native French words, because in the evolution from Vulgar Latin, unstressed syllables were severely reduced and the remaining vowels and consonants underwent significant modifications.
More recently the linguistic policy of the French language academies of France and Quebec has been to provide French equivalents to (mainly English) imported words, either by using existing vocabulary, extending its meaning or deriving a new word according to French morphological rules. The result is often two (or more) co-existing terms for describing the same phenomenon.
Root Languages for Words of Foreign Origin
Gallo-Romance Languages (11.452%)
Asian Languages (2.119%)
Afro-Asian Languages (1.333%)
Other Languages (3.429%)
- mercatique / marketing
- finance fantôme / shadow banking
- bloc-notes / notepad
- ailière / wingsuit
- tiers-lieu / coworking
It is estimated that 12% (4,200) of common French words found in a typical dictionary such as the Petit Larousse or Micro-Robert Plus (35,000 words) are of foreign origin (where Greek and Latin learned words are not seen as foreign). About 25% (1,054) of these foreign words come from English and are fairly recent borrowings. The others are some 707 words from Italian, 550 from ancient Germanic languages, 481 from other Gallo-Romance languages, 215 from Arabic, 164 from German, 160 from Celtic languages, 159 from Spanish, 153 from Dutch, 112 from Persian and Sanskrit, 101 from Native American languages, 89 from other Asian languages, 56 from other Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Slavic languages and Baltic languages, 10 from Basque and 144 (about 3%) from other languages.
One study analyzing the degree of differentiation of Romance languages in comparison to Latin estimated that among the languages analyzed French has the greatest distance from Latin. Lexical similarity is 89% with Italian, 80% with Sardinian, 78% with Rhaeto-Romance, and 75% with Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese.
The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 80 to 99. The French word for 80 is quatre-vingts, literally "four twenties", and the word for 75 is soixante-quinze, literally "sixty-fifteen". This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton) and Viking influences). This system is comparable to the archaic English use of score, as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70).
In Old French (during the Middle Ages), all numbers from 30 to 99 could be said in either base 10 or base 20, e.g. vint et doze (twenty and twelve) for 32, dous vinz et diz (two twenties and ten) for 50, uitante for 80, or nonante for 90.
Belgian French, Swiss French, Aostan French and the French used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi are different in this respect. In the French spoken in these places, 70 and 90 are septante and nonante. In Switzerland, depending on the local dialect, 80 can be quatre-vingts (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura) or huitante (Vaud, Valais, Fribourg). Octante had been used in Switzerland in the past, but is now considered archaic, while in the Aosta Valley 80 is huitante. In Belgium and in its former African colonies, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.
French, like most European languages, uses a space to separate thousands where English uses a comma or (more recently) a space. The comma is used in French numbers as a decimal point: 2,5 = deux virgule cinq.
Cardinal numbers in French, from 0 to 20, are as follows:
After Twenty, numbers use base ten logic (vingt et un, vingt-deux, vingt-trois...)
Cardinal numbers in French, by tens from 10 to 100, are as follows:
After One hundred, numbers use base ten logic (cent dix, cent vingt, cent trente...)
Cardinal numbers in French, by hundreds from 100 to 2000, are as follows:
- One hundred: cent /sɑ̃(t)/
- Two hundred: deux cents
- Three hundred: trois cents, (Archaism: quinze-vingts)
- Four hundred: quatre cents
- Five hundred: cinq cents
- Six hundred: six cents
- Seven hundred: sept cents
- Eight hundred: huit cents
- Nine hundred: neuf cents
- One thousand: mille[f]
- One thousand one hundred: onze cents or mille cent[g]
- One thousand two hundred: douze cents or mille deux cents[g]
- One thousand three hundred: treize cents or mille trois cents[g]
- One thousand four hundred: quatorze cents or mille quatre cents[g]
- One thousand five hundred: quinze cents or mille cinq cents[g]
- One thousand six hundred: seize cents or mille six cents[g]
- One thousand seven hundred: dix-sept cents or mille sept cents
- One thousand eight hundred: dix-huit cents or mille huit cents
- One thousand nine hundred: dix-neuf cents or mille neuf cents
- Two thousand: deux mille
After deux mille (2000), only the second option is used (deux mille cent, deux mille deux cents, deux mille trois cents...)
The words vingt and cent take the plural -s only when they are the last word of the number: quatre-vingts (eighty) and quatre-vingt-un (eighty-one), cinq cents (five hundred) and cinq cent trente (five hundred and thirty). When a number using vingt or cent is used as an ordinal numeral adjective, the words vingt or cent stay unchanged.
Cardinal numbers in French, by exponentiation points, from 100 to 1020, are as follows:
- One: un/une /œ̃/ (m) ~ /yn/ (f)
- Ten: dix /dis/
- One hundred: cent /sɑ̃(t)/
- One thousand: mille /mil/
- Ten thousand: dix mille
- Hundred thousand: cent mille
- One million: un million /mi.ljɔ̃/
- Ten million: dix millions
- Hundred million: cent millions
- One billion: un milliard
- Ten billion: dix milliards
- Hundred billion: cent milliards
- One trillion: un billion /bi.ljɔ̃/
- Ten trillion: dix billions
- Hundred trillion: cent billions
- One quadrillion: un billiard
- Ten quadrillion: dix billiards
- Hundred quadrillion: cent billiards
- One quintillion: un trillion
- Ten quintillion: dix trillions
- Hundred quintillion: cent trillions
- ^ It has been suggested that Nine and New homophonographs are related and that it would be an unusual preservation of the octal number system speculated to be formerly used in proto-Indo-European language, though the evidence supporting this is slim.
- ^ Septante is used in Belgium and in Switzerland. Its use is dated in Eastern France and archaic elsewhere in France.
- ^ Huitante is used in Vaud, Valais, Fribourg, archaic in France.
- ^ Octante is used, but dated, in Romandie and in Southern France. Its use is archaic in other parts of France.
- ^ Nonante is used in Belgium, Switzerland and, dated, in Eastern France, archaic in other parts of France.
- ^ Formerly singular of the now invariable mille, mil is now only used in formal documents to write dates between mil un (1001) and mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (1999).
- ^ a b c d e f While both styles are correct and concurrently used, numbers above mille and under deux mille are usually counted by hundreds from onze cents up to seize cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf and are then indifferently counted both styles in informal language while the count by adding hundreds to one thousand, like in mille cent, mille six cents, is favoured in written language, especially in juridical, administrative and scientific works.
- ^ Nota Bene that English use the short scale while French use the long scale.