I'm reading an old comic play from 1715 and I'm struggling to interpret a word:

Leandre suit comme un lâche, Scaramouche est un gavache; Et moi itou.

I think it might be:

Leandre follows like a coward, Scaramouche is a foreigner [derogatory?] And I am also.

This does not entirely make sense in this context (or any context). If there are any slang shades of meaning that might improve my understanding, it would be much appreciated.

Disclaimer: So sorry if this word is offensive or a swear. I am unaware. [I don't believe it is, but if so, my apologies.]

  • 1
    Vulgarity is part of language, and it should never be considered offensive to discuss any word in the context of examining meaning, usage, or etymology. Somewhat analogous to "Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself." Feb 3, 2017 at 0:48

2 Answers 2


A "gavache" would be either a "personne lâche" (a coward) or a "nom dédaigneux donné à des personnes d'origine étrangère au pays" (i.e. a disdainful name for foreigners) as per TLFi/CNRTL.

No worries about offending anyone, this word probably has no impact at all these days, it is completely dated, and rare. I didn't know/remember this word at all when I saw this post.

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    Gavache would still be understood in Roussillon where is is still quite an offensive word to name people from the neighboring Aude, and also in a large part of former "Langue d'Oc" area for people still familiar with Occitan, but not in Provence where gavot would be used instead. See etymologie-occitane.fr/2011/09/gavach-gavatch-gavot
    – jlliagre
    Feb 14, 2017 at 14:03

In Spain, gabacho is still used to refer to French people, probably originating from the Napoleonic wars. It is somewhat pejorative.

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    "Somewhat pejorative" is an understatement :-) and it's older the the Napoleonic wars, although they definitely help popularize it. Gabacho probably started to be used in Spanish to call the Frenchmen as early as the 16th century and comes from a Occitan/Catalan derogatory word (gavach/gabatx) from at least the 13th century. Funnily, gabacho is now used in Mexico to call US citizens.
    – jlliagre
    Feb 13, 2017 at 21:32
  • @jlliagre true, but in my city we named an street after some gavatxons that lived there. It's pejorative in general but also colloquial. Near that street is another named after bastard. We definitely have a sense of humour here.
    – orique
    Feb 13, 2017 at 21:47
  • 1
    Then there must be an avinguda dels franxutes ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Feb 13, 2017 at 22:12

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