In my app I have a toggle button which simply has "VS" on it, being the abbreviated form of "versus". When clicked, it brings up a comparison of two items. Is there a brief French equivalent which would be understandable in this context?

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    BTW, even in English that's a poor label. Not only is "vs" rarely capitalised, but it's not a verb and it's not really clear what the button will do. Try "Compare" instead. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 23 '19 at 14:04
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit It seems like it would be idiomatic if you put it in between the things being compared. So the whole thing might look like "Compare: <menu1> [VS] <menu2>". This discussion would be more appropriate for User Experience. – Barmar Aug 23 '19 at 19:22
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    Just a comment but if possible do this sort of analysis at the design stage. Otherwise you end up with constraints (length in this case) which target languages have to bear for no reason. For instance using Barmar's etc. example if this had been designed with "compare" being the button and VS. being static, the verb comparer could have been used... – user19187 Aug 23 '19 at 19:51
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    @Barmar Even then, it's a bit of a stretch. Generally there is no excuse for taking such shortcuts. Just make the label describe the action that will be taken. A convention that began many decades ago and survives to this day. I do agree that this particular aspect would make a good User Experience discussion, but I felt it bears mentioning here because it personifies the very premise of this question. – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 24 '19 at 0:22
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    Depending on the context a simple « ou » could do the job... – PatrickT Aug 24 '19 at 6:10

French borrowed versus (vs) from English in 1965 and is nowadays widely used in the academic world. It is in all recent dictionaries, e.g. Larousse or the Dictionnaire historique en langue française (not online).
The Académie Française discourages its use because French has "contre, ou, face à, en face de and par opposition that can express the same idea and therefore it is not necessary to use this Anglicism."1

But the Académie Française is considered an old stilted institution by a lot of people, included academics who use vs quite profusely in their papers.

An example in this paper (p.58)

même si elles semblent converger vers quelques valeurs-nœuds, celles, par exemple, de l'être vs l'avoir ou de la participation esthésique (et esthétique) au monde vs des vérités débrayées 2

And this other one (two occurrences). Quite easy to find plenty more.

I am not sure though that it would be understood by all French natives, but no one knows all the words in their mother tongue if they are not part of their everyday conversation. I rarely use apps so I do not know if vs is already used for what you describe (s.o. on this site will surely do) but I would not worry about leaving vs as is. I am pretty sure you would not find anything as short and saying just what you mean.

@LaurentS pointing out in a comment that versus has long been used in video games that leads to add that it has reached other strata of society than academia, and is much more popular than I thought and would be perfectly fine for an app. And probably better understood than the abbreviation c. (for the French contre) which apparently exists but I have never seen used.

To answer the comment about italics I point out that academic papers have specific rules about using italics and other formatting but versus is rarely in italics outside academia.

ces affaires vont affaiblir «durablement l'ensemble des syndicats de salariés en France», versus 30 % qui parient sur un tassement. (Le Figaro, 18/11/2018)

Un site français d'évaluation de téléphone mobile.

la coronarographie normale ou avec lésion modérée est deux fois plus fréquente chez les femmes que chez les hommes (12 % versus 6%) (Le coeur des femmes : comprendre les maladies cardio-vasculaires- 2013).

À Paris : quartiers huppés versus quartier latin (L'adolescente et le cinéma de Lolita à Twilight - 2013)

1My translation.
2 My emphasis.

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    Although I share the appreciation of this lot of people about Académie Francaise, I must admit that I find it strange to use "vs" in such papers where the language level is quite high knowing that approriate alternatives exist in French. – Laurent S. Aug 23 '19 at 6:55
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    Les "vs" dans les références que tu donnes sont tous en italiques, ce qui montre peut-être qu'ils ne sont pas considérés comme parfaitement intégrés au français par ceux qui les emploient. – user21018 Aug 23 '19 at 7:26
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    @petitrien En italique comme id., ibid, sq. et beaucoup d'autres très couramment utilisés dans les publications françaises selon les normes de publication françaises. Je ne sais pas ce que tu entends par "considérés comme parfaitement intégrés au français", mais bien sûr si on pense que ne doit être qualifié de français que ce qui est dans la langue française depuis... les gallo romains, c'est juste. D'autres te diront que si ce qui est employé couramment en français est devenu français. C'est une question d'années et de siècles, rien à l'échelle de la planète. – None Aug 23 '19 at 8:54
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    @Cris The French imported it from English not directly from Latin. Different status than let's say ibidem that is seen as directly coming from Latin (and has been used for a lot longer). It originally came into French through sport, funny enough it still isn't much used in sports. – None Aug 23 '19 at 16:23
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    ...but pretty much any videogame player knows it I guess. I was myself first exposed to "vs" in the early 90's as a teenager. I remember that as it has left me wondering for a long time what it was standing for although I understood the concept immediately, and when I learned it, it was like a revelation :-) – Laurent S. Aug 23 '19 at 20:17

Versus est un mot d'origine latine que j'ai toujours vu être utilisé aussi bien en anglais (très courant) qu'en français (moins courant). Je précise que cette fréquence d'utilisation est celle que j'ai notée au fil du temps, elle n'a rien de "scientifique".

D'ailleurs, il semblerait que l'Académie Française désapprouve l'emploi de "versus" mais je n'ai pas trouvé sa recommandation pour une équivalence également raccourcie. Par contre, dans des petits guides à usage de l'administration, on trouve la proposition "vs" (lien) lorsqu'il s'agit de prendre des notes.

Afin de comparer ou d'opposer deux valeurs, j'ai déjà vu également les signes "/" et "//" dans le sens de "par rapport à" puisqu'on met les deux valeurs en parallèle.

Dans le cas d'un bouton d'application, il me semble que l'abréviation "vs" est appropriée car la plus compréhensible et concise. Je ne lui trouve pas d'équivalent aussi parlant, transcrivant de manière simple l'idée de départ.

  • je n'ai pas trouvé sa recommandation pour une équivalence: c'est dans la réponse de Laure. Pas évident à placer sur un bouton d'application ! – Evargalo Aug 23 '19 at 13:08
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    Je ne suis pas d'accord :) en effet, l'AF ne propose pas d'abréviation. Or, la question demande, dans son titre et son texte, une version raccourcie transmettant la même idée que "vs". L'AF ne donne que des mots et les recommande (c'est également pour cette raison que je n'ai pas mis de lien). Je me suis évertué à répondre à la question, en mettant l'accent sur l'équivalent en français de "vs". – OneMoreTimeButAnonimously Aug 23 '19 at 13:20
  • @Evargalo Le répondeur a raison. L'AF ne donne pas d'abréviation, il faut aller ailleurs pour trouver une abréviation de contre, et encore très difficile à trouver (je ne l'avais jamais vu avant ma recherche). Par contre la majorité des listes d'abréviations donne vs. et pas c. Ici ou ici par ex. ou ne donne rien (Comme le Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l’Imprimerie nationale). – None Aug 25 '19 at 6:54

Since the context is a toggle button in a graphical user interface, I assume your priority is less to find the exact official (approved by the Académie Française) equivalent to "vs", than to find something bearing approximately the same meaning with the least number of letters.

vs would be acceptable but this is not widely used and, depending on your audience, some would not understand its meaning, especially uneducated people.

diff and comp (or just cmp) are abbreviations (respectively for "différence" and "comparaison" / "comparer") that may have a better chance of being understood. However, none of those words is a translation of "versus"; they just match the action associated with your button.

If a four letter abbreviation is still too large for your button, you may also look towards Unicode symbols like those double arrows: , , , , , , etc. Or just ±. Be creative!

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    Je ne vois pas le caractère unicode précédant etc.. – user19187 Aug 23 '19 at 19:55
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    Despite being familiar with the English vs and not considering myself "uneducated" but who does ;-) a button labelled "VS" would certainly perplex me. On the other hand, diff is quite common and would work in both languages. – jlliagre Aug 23 '19 at 20:44
  • @jlliagre I never said that not understanding "vs" would qualify you as uneducated ;-) What I implied is that if the OP is making e.g. a website to sell products to the laymen, he has to ensure that everyone is getting the meaning of that button. Surely a lot would be missing it, especially the uneducated ones who are customers like others. – xhienne Aug 23 '19 at 21:56
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    @personne Unicode définit une quantité astronomique de caractères et symboles mais tout le monde n'a pas la correspondance graphique (glyph) installée sur son ordinateur donc le caractère ne s'affiche pas partout. Le symbole qui précède "etc" est celui-ci : en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E2%AD%BE (mais ce n'est qu'un exemple comme un autre) – xhienne Aug 23 '19 at 22:00
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    Be helpful to the user, not just "creative" – Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 25 '19 at 0:27

To highlight @Patrick T's note: Depending on the context, a simple « ou » could do the job.

  • Nice and brief! Not sure that by itself on a button it's intuitive, though. Probably should be if enough people get behind it. The Académie would be pleased! – MSC Aug 30 '19 at 0:31

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