Let's talk about money today, an essential subject that will be useful in many conversational situations like shopping, going to the bank, traveling, or talking about jobs in French. What do French people call money? What are some French slang words and expressions? What are the means of payment in French? …
So, I will be sharing with you a comprehensive vocabulary list of common and useful money terms that will make you more comfortable with money-related discussions in French.
1. What is money called in French?
If ever you encounter the French word "la monnaie", which is very similar to the English word "money", you might be tempted to think that it is the exact translation of money. Unfortunately, these two words are false cognates.
When talking about money, the first translation in French is l'argent, which is a word with masculine gender.
The word monnaie actually refers to the currency a country uses. (eg. Quelle monnaie est utilisée en Europe? L'euro. => Which currency is used in Europe? Euro).
As you know, words have several meanings. The word Monnaie can also refer to the change, the outstanding money that is given back to you when you buy something.
Another common translation of Money is les fonds or les capitaux when speaking about money invested in a company for instance.
2. Means of payment in French
We can't discuss money topic without speaking about means of payment that will in come handy in many situations. For instance, after you finish eating at a restaurant, the cashier (le caissier) will most likely ask you "Vous payez comment"? => How are you paying?
Let's start with banknotes and coins called in French as les moyens de paiement fiduciaires (fiduciary means of payment).
# Un billet
Un billet is a banknote or paper money.
# Une pièce: a coin
It refers to a coin. Be aware that the word pièce is polysemic. Its meaning changes depending on the context. Une pièce de théâtre refers to a theater scene, while la pièce d'une voiture would be about a part of a car, and la pièce d'un puzzle would be a piece of a puzzle for instance. Bref, you get what I mean.
Now, let's see other means of payment, generally called les moyens de paiement scripturaux as they require operations on accounts.
# La carte bancaire
The bank card is called la carte bancaire. It can be a debit card or credit card: une carte de débit or une carte de crédit. In France, it is also common to hear " la carte bleue" when referring to the card.
# Le chèque
You can easily guess that le chèque is nothing else than the check.
# Les espèces
Les espèces is the term used for cash or liquid payments.
# Le virement
Le virement is a transfer from account to account.
# Le prélèvement
We generally speak about prélèvement automatique when the bank is authorized to make a direct debit for instance for monthly bills.
# Le transfert
Do not confuse le virement with the French word "un transfert" which means sending money, and can be done without an account just like what we have with transfer companies Western Union and others.
Note that when talking about means of payment, we use small prepositions to tell the type of payment used.
par carte: by card
en espèces: by cash /in liquid
par chèque: by check
au comptant: by cash
à crédit: by credit
Let's finish with new types of means of payment:
la monnaie électronique: electronic money
la cryptomonnaie: crypto currency
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3. How do we say Money in French slang?
If you want to master the topic of money and understand real-life conversations, knowing only the word Monnaie will not be really helpful. It's important to learn some French money slang so that you can understand local people, especially the youth as they tend to use a lot of slang words.
Below are some must-know slang about money in the French language with examples of sentences.
# la thune /la tune
Both ways of writing are accepted. Example: Il me faut urgemment de la thune => I urgently need money.
# le flouse /flouze
It is derivated from the Arabic language. Example: J'ai besoin de flouze. => I need money.
# le fric
Example: Je n'ai pas de fric => I don't have money
L'oseille is also used to speak about an edible sour plant. Example: Si t'as pas d'oseille, mieux vaut ne pas entrer dans cette boutique. => If you don''t have money, better not enter this shop.
# Le pognon
Example: Il a pris mon pognon et refuse de me le rendre. => He has taken my money and refuses to give it back to me.
# Le blé
Le blé also means wheat. Example: C'est mon blé et j'en fais ce que je veux. => It's my money and I do whatever I want with it.
# Une balle
Une balle also means a ball or a bullet. It is used in French just like a buck is to the dollar in English. Example: Tu peux me passer 100 balles? => Can you give me 100 euros?
# Un bifton / un biffeton
Un bifton is an informal word used to designate a bank note. Example: donnez-moi plutôt des biftons. => Preferably Give me bank notes.
4. French phrases related to money
# Give me money => Donne-moi de l'agent
Depending if you are using the informal or formal tone. you would say "Donne-moi de l'argent or donnez-moi de l'argent".
# Lend me money=> Prête moi de l'argent.
This is the kind of sentence you will say at the bank or with close friends as I guess people don't generally borrow money from strangers.
# Rembourser de l'argent à quelqu'un
When you borrow money, at some time you will have to pay it back. We use the term " rembourser de l'argent".
# I need money
Just like the previous expression, you would most likely tell someone close to you (eg. your wife, husband, family member, or friend) that you need money. The phrase to use in French is "J'ai besoin d'argent".
# It's my money
In a discussion, when you need to clarify that it's your money, you can just say "c'est mon argent".
# To send money
If you go to the bank or to a transfer service, just tell them "je voudrais envoyer de l'argent". => I would like to send money. This phrase can be used alone as in this example or with the preposition à to indicate the person to whom you would like to send money. Je voudrais envoyer de l'argent à ma sœur. => I would like to send money to my sister.
# I don't have money
The direct translation of I don't have money is Je n'ai pas d'agent. However, there are many other ways to talk about this subject.
Je suis sans le sou / je n'ai pas un rond: I don't have a single penny
je suis fauché (e) : I am broke
je suis pauvre (gueux) comme un rat d’église: Literally: I am poor like a church rat)
# To save money
This is another financial term that you can use at the bank or even with friends while discussing financial management strategies or personal finances. To save money translates as Épargner de l'argent. You can also say " mettre de l'argent de coté".
# To spend money
The opposite of épargner de l'argent is of course dépenser de l'argent which means to spend money. When someone spends a lot of money, French people will use the idiom " Jeter l'argent par les fenêtres", literally throwing money through windows. You can also use the adjective dispendieux to describe something that requires a lot of money to be spent. (eg. un style de vie dispendieux => a luxurious lifestyle.)
# Money laundering
Talking about tax havens, we will refer to the term " blanchir de l'argent" which is literally translated as to whiten money, just to speak about money laundering.
5. Money and social status: how to say rich and poor in French?
To be rich is translated as être riche. However, you don't have to limit yourself to that phrase as you have many other options. The following expressions can be used as synonyms for being rich.
être friqué (e)
être plein (e) aux as : literally to be full of aces
être pété de thunes: literally to be exploded of money
rouler sur l'or: literally to be rolling on gold
être né (e) avec une cuillère d'or/d'agent dans la bouche: literally to be born with a golden/silver spoon in the mouth.
The opposite of être riche is être pauvre (to be poor). Again, there are other alternatives to know about.
être fauché (e): to be broke
être dans la dèche: to be broke
être à sec: literally to be dry
être dans la misère: to be poverty-stricken/to be destitute
être endetté (e): to be indebted.
Some people may not be poor but their relationship with money is special because they don't like spending a lot. Here are a few expressions to call stingy persons or cheapskates:
être radin (e)
To broaden your vocabulary, You can check out more informal synonyms given by the Larousse online dictionary,
I think we have gone through most of the money and financial terms and that should get you more comfortable discussing money-related topics.