French Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the French language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

You can call someone "chicken" or "chicken hearted" for being scared. Mind it, its not coward which is serious. Is there a funny slang expression like "chicken" in French?

share|improve this question
up vote 22 down vote accepted

Poule mouillée (lit. “wet hen”) is close: it means a person who lacks courage. It isn't as widely applicable as chicken: you can't use it as an adjective, and it's not as natural as in English to use it as an interjection (though you can say “Espèce de poule mouillée !”, which is roughly equivalent to “You [are] chicken!”). It is usually constructed as “X est une poule mouillée”. For example, a child might launch a race and taunt the other children by saying “le dernier arrivé est une poule mouillée”.

Where English children would shout “Chicken!”, I think French children would shout “oh, le peureux”. Another childish phrase that's close is “t'es pas cap'” (short for capable), meaning “you don't dare” (and hence can translate “I dare you”).

share|improve this answer
Poule mouillée has for me an hint of cowardice, which @codious doesn't seem to want. – Un francophone Apr 20 '12 at 9:50
Quelques autres adjectifs courants: froussard, lâche, poltron. – Joubarc Apr 20 '12 at 11:30
@Unfrancophone The way I understand the question, the problem with coward is not the meaning but the intensity: coward is serious, can be insulting; chicken is more light-hearted, more playful. – Gilles Apr 20 '12 at 12:34
Let's also take notice of the variant : Dégonflé ! – Romain VALERI Nov 5 '12 at 17:12
I hear "mauviette" a lot – Phil Jul 3 '14 at 13:12

There's another (mostly childish but not only) slang term that hasn't been mentionned yet :

T'es un trouillard ! / Oh, le trouillard !

It's very commonly used, and never to refer to someone with a "legitimate" or understandable fear. Its use implies that the scare is clearly disproportionnate to the real threat.

(However, let's note that it fails to match the use of chicken in the expression to play chicken.)

share|improve this answer
I totally agree with you, much more "childish" and less "serious", just as the OP seems to need. – Laurent S. Dec 3 '14 at 14:13

If you want to be rude while talking to a really close friend you could say "tapette" or "t'es une tapette !" which also stands for gay.

Don't use that if that person is actually gay, that would really be homophobic.


— On va courir ?
— T'es fou il pleut !
— Tapette !

share|improve this answer
Of course, it's a lot more fun to use with actual gay people (really close friends, of course). – Nikana Reklawyks Nov 5 '12 at 17:04
This usage is technically homophobic whether or not the person is actually gay, in fact. It is just safer to be homophobic when no gay people are around, if I somewhat understand your point. Anyway, this was not considered offensing one or two decades back, but probably because most people just weren't aware it could be an issue for anyone. Like Nikana says though, gay people with a sense of humour don't take offense on this, moreover when it's said by someone they know being broad-minded. – Romain VALERI Apr 30 '14 at 16:24
This expression entered in the common language some years ago, when people weren't looking everywhere for so-called homophobia. It isn't homophobic to use it as making a blonde-joke isn't a blonde-hate act, but indeed within the politically correct atmosphere nowadays, better use another expression which for sure won't hurt any community. – Laurent S. Dec 3 '14 at 14:31

There is a wonderful film starring Marion Cotillard called (I think) Jeux d'enfants, in which two kids play a game of chicken throughout their lives. The expression they use (I think) is 'cap pas cap'. The English title of the film is 'Love Me if you Dare', so you get the feeling.

share|improve this answer

t'a la frousse ? means "are you (too) scared to do it ?

share|improve this answer

I noticed that recentely more and more people (me included) started to use the word " canard " ( = duck ) exactly like english people use "chicken" , to mean that someone is not very brave in funny slang.

share|improve this answer

It’s dated and probably more “cowardly” and less funny than you wanted, but the “faux-ami,” “Capon/(caponne)” (without the “H” in "chapon"), works as both an adjective and a noun to communicate the idea of “a chicken/poulet (the animal) being afraid” in one word.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.