French in the Neapolitan: origins and words

by Francesco Li Volti

Between Italy and France there is an ambiguous relationship. We are called cousins but we have no blood ties, although sometimes we love each other and sometimes we hate each other. But always with great respect, a respect sanctioned by the centuries of history that unite us. From the age of Romans ai Angevins we have dominated and contaminated ourselves. It is well known that the French both the language that over the centuries has most influenced Italian, but no city has enriched its vocabulary with French terms as Naples has done throughout its history.


All of southern Italy has undergone the influence of the French at different times to give way to other ruling dynasties of various ethnic groups: Spaniards, Austrians, but also the Arabs it's a Neapolitan Republic, which existed for a few months. The presence of the French in the city alternated with that of other ruling peoples, so there was an influx of Frenchisms that were amalgamated with non-direct ones and with some of other languages (especially Spanish), creating overlaps that hinder even more the safe identification of the way of employment.

There were essentially three periods of French domination: after the experience of the Angevins (1266 - 1435), happen Joseph Bonaparte (1806 - 1808), then Joachim Murat (1808 - 1815). The French monarchies have brought about slow but profound changes through a wide repertoire of laws that have definitively demolished the pillars ofancien regime. Tracing the history of each word, especially in the absence of documents that allow us to accurately establish the starting date of their dissemination, is an almost impossible undertaking, but there are still many words that we have "stolen" from French.

The spread of French in Naples and throughout southern Italy has been felt since the days of Charlemagne (9th century). The trade in progress between France and our country, which has gradually intensified with the favor of church, has certainly favored the spread of words and idioms of our cousins on the Italian territory. Even following the French Revolution and to the diffusion of Enlightenment ideas, Neapolitan and French intellectuals alternated between Naples e Paris.

French flag


Also thanks to the cuisine, France and Neapolitan customs have perfectly merged: bombò, cream puffs, buatta, crocchè, filoscio, monzù, pummarola, sartù, are just some of the countless culinary terms that have invaded our tables.

Not only are there many words deriving from the French language, but there are also streets and squares of Naples that reflect the daily life of our cousins: French Square, in Zone Port, It is near Town Hall square; Bridge of the French, which is at the gates of San Giovanni a Teduccio; Via Renovella (from Rue nouvelle) and Rua Francesca, both behind Nicola Amore square; Cupa Lautrec owes its name to the leader Odetto de Foix Viscount of Lautrec which besieged Naples in 1528, but poisoned by the water that he himself had ordered to pollute, he died there and was thus buried in the church of Santa Maria La Nova.



acheter (to buy)        accept       buy

allumer (switch on)      alummare    switch on

empresser (to press)    ampressa       in a hurry

après (after)     appriesso       after

arranger (organize)  arrange    accommodate

bel et bien (really)     nice and good suddenly

bijou (jewel) bisciù     nice thing / person

bleu (blue)           blè          blue

blouse (shirt)              blouse     blouse

bon bon (sweet, chocolate) bumblebee treat

Brioche                brioscia          sweet baked dough

boîte (box)  buatta  box

bougie (candle)             buscìa   candle

bouteille (bottle)       throw it away        bottle

cendrier (ashtray) ashtray ashtray

chance       canzo    time

chaussette (sock)           cazetta fits

cheminée (fireplace)        cemmenera    fireplace, smokestack

chere (face)       wax       face appearance

quincaille (iron objects)  trinkets  objects of little value

charaut (spell)        ciaravolo      cheater, charlatan

commode (wardrobe)      commò dresser

coucher (to sleep)          to cook         to sleep

croquet (biscuit)          crocchè        fried potato croquette

fenêtre (window)            fenesta window

filoche (veil)    filoscio  thin omelette

fanfreluche (trifle)     franfellicco pendant, trinket

fricandau (mixture)    fricandò    lamb cooked in its own sauce

fricasser (to squander)   fricassé fricassee, dish with minced meat

froisser (breaking into pieces)         rustle delude yourself

fuir (to flee)     fuì           run away

galette (pebble)         biscuit crushed biscuit

gateau (sweet)  cat     salty potato pie

jaquette (short and tight dress)  jacket jacket

gratin (crust)   he scratched   au gratin

garçon (boy)              apprentice     apprentice

laquais (servant) lackey   servant, person of little reliability

lampe (lamp)             lampa   lamp, bonfire

lumière (light)  lummèra    fuse, illuminations

mademoiselle (young lady)           madamusella Miss (title)

malheur (bad luck, bad luck)hell ruin

maman (mother)           mum       mum

marquis (marquis)      marquis     marquis (menstrual cycle)

marpion (crab)           marpione    sly

emballer (to cheat) 'unpack     cheat, get in the way

emprunter (to borrow) 'mpruntare     lend

monsieur (sir)        munzù  sir (appellation for cooks and tourists)

charmer (to bewitch)    'leave   strive, strive

nippe (frill)              nipple hair

andouille (tripe and pork sausage)  knots             offal sausage

entretien (entertainment)      'ntartieno     Entertainment

enserrer (close)       'nzerrare        close

pareille (pair)            tie        pair, reciprocation

plush (fur)              piluscia hair

posteer (post office worker) pustiere        employee of the lot

apprécier (to evaluate)       priezza cheer, joy

rage (anger)     ray   anger

aisement (easily)  samenta          despicable person

sans façon (without manner)        sanfasò without criteria

surtout (above all, on everything)  sartù     stuffed rice flan

serviette (napkin)    sarvietta        napkin

chanteuse (singer)    sciantosa       variety singer

char à bancs (4-wheeled carriage) saber    gig

chasse (hunting uniform)        sciassa jacket, tailcoat

chic (elegant) scicco    elegant

chiffonière (chest of drawers)              sciffunera           dresser

chignon (high gathered hairstyle)    scignò   high collected hairstyle

échouer (to fail)              sciè sciuè             without putting much effort

chou (cabbage)     sciù        sweet stuffed with cream or whipped cream

chouchou (honey)          sciusciù       treasure

s'égarer (to be mistaken)       overshoot              make a mistake

sparadrap (patch)       shooter      bandaid

épargner (to save) sparagno             savings

épingle (brooch) spurs              brooch

tire-bouchon (corkscrew)     pulled up           corkscrew

tronises (pincers)     trunchesa           pincer

table de toilette (toilet cabinet)   tulette  cabinet with drawers and mirror

toupee (wig)            tuppo   high collected hairstyle

Francesismi in the Neapolitan dialect, A.Mignone, M.Marinucci, EUT, Trieste, 2005

The Kingdom of Naples, A. Musi, Morcelliana, Brescia, 2016;

Vall 'a capì, Maria D'Acunto, Graziano Mattera, F.lli Ferraro, Naples, 2013

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