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In two cases I seem to be unable to find the right translation for fancy into French.

  • A fancy camera
  • A fancy hotel

It mustn't be so hard to understand but I'm quite hazy about what's meant there and just feel so stupid.

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3 Answers 3

Fancy is one of those words which doesn't have only one or even a few equivalents in French. Its translation depends a lot on the word it qualifies and the context. In your cases, I would suggest the following:

  • Une caméra de pointe, (ultra)perfectionnée, sophistiquée*, if it qualifies its performance, or it qualifies its looks, simply une belle caméra
  • Un hotel de luxe, luxueux, chic, élégant

*The French adjective sophistiqué in the sense of sophisticated is sometimes criticized as an anglicism, especially when characterizing technology advancements: “Ces empl. de sophistiqué sont parfois critiqués par les puristes comme américanismes (ou anglicismes).” (TLF)

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1  
Je n'ai jamais vu ni entendu critiquer sophistiqué. –  Evpok Mar 24 '12 at 20:39
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@Evpok Le Grand Robert porte pourtant cette mention : « (1968). Anglic. critiqué. Fig. Recherché, complexe, évolué, où interviennent des techniques de pointe. ». Je l'ai également entendu d'un professeur d'université. Tel que j'ai mentionné, son usage est parfois critiqué. –  Kareen Mar 24 '12 at 20:59
    
Effectivement, même le TLF apparemment. –  Evpok Mar 25 '12 at 9:58
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Élégant has for me an implied sobriety which is the opposite of fancy which leans more over tappe à l'œuil. –  Un francophone Mar 26 '12 at 10:11
    
@Un francophone: The correct spelling is "tape-à-l'oeil". –  user999 Mar 31 '12 at 13:00

It could be translated into something like sophistiqué, or perhaps chic.

Note the nuance between French and English here – in French, sophistiqué means unnecessarily elaborate (cf. Dictionnaire Littré) whereas in English it does not have this somewhat pejorative connotation. The adjective "fancy" means elaborate, but it also implies that the thing is decorative (and potentially non-functional) or meant to impress (i.e. elaborate beyond what is strictly necessary to make it useful). This is why I feel that sophistiqué could be a good translation.

Edit: And see @Micromégas' comment about "fancy" implying that the elaborateness of the object in question can even impair its function. The same idea is also conveyed by sophistiqué in the sense explained above.

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I'm not sure. In English it depends on register and context just as much as in French. "Fancy", especially in western U.S. context implies over-elaborate and possibly non-functional sometimes. –  Micromégas Mar 26 '12 at 1:57
    
@Micromégas Isn't that what I am saying about sophistiqué? –  ienissei Mar 26 '12 at 8:53
    
when you say that "fancy" means "elaborate beyone what is strictly necessary to make it useful" I think this lacks the perjorative sense of "elaborate so that it impairs function". –  Micromégas Mar 26 '12 at 11:48
    
@Micromégas Sorry I didn't manage to convey that idea properly, I definitely meant that there is something pejorative about "fancy". I have edited my answer accordingly and included your comment, I hope it is better. –  ienissei Mar 26 '12 at 12:00

In more spoken french, "fancy" can be translated by "classe".

Un hôtel classe, un restaurant classe, un manteau classe, un appartement classe, une soirée classe.

"Classe" is a mix between "classy", "luxury", "impressive". This does not fit the "fancy camera".

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