Why is "générique" the word used in French to refer to the credits/title sequence/theme song of a T.V. show or movie? How did "générique" come to acquire such a meaning? So far, I've had zero luck trying to determine how exactly this specific use of the word could have possibly come about, seeing as its etymology and other definitions have otherwise no obvious relation to the notion of "theme song" that might explain the confusing semantics.

Any and all input is much appreciated! Merci d'avance~

  • 3
    Forget the theme song thing, that's a later meaning. It dates all the way to the 40s referring to opening credits of movies.
    – Circeus
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 19:58
  • How come you changed your title? ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 17:34
  • Générique does not mean "theme song". It can mean "opening song" or "ending song". It could end up meaning theme song only if it is the same as one of those two.
    – XouDo
    Commented 6 hours ago

1 Answer 1


Générique relates to genre and specially engendrer and lists all the people who generated (gave birth to) a movie, its géniteurs or générateurs. The word is attested in the early fifties and started to be popular in the sixties.

As Circeus commented, using générique for a theme song came later by metonymy.

Google Ngram:

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Source: Émile Moussat, Ce que parler veut dire, Sixième série, p 134, 1960.

  • 1
    Fascinating! The "generated/engendrer" thing makes perfect sense, I almost feel silly for not connecting the dots myself. Just the answer I was looking for, merci infiniment ^^ Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 22:58

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