"Thrifting" or "To Thrift" is a verb used often in the US now, and the act of thrifting is trending among Gen Y and Gen Z youth. Its meaning: to find very good condition used items at a store that specializes in such items, clothing or other unique items, and it can sometimes mean the act of giving an item away to such a store for their profitable gain. Usually the items are not "consignment" where an original owner is looking to realize some money back too. Often the act of thrifting takes place at stores benefiting a particular charity, where donations are given for others to purchase.

It is still rare or absent as a dictionary entry, but I suspect it will enter officially soon. How do we convey this action in French? (My daughter is learning French also, and this would be a subject she would be interested to use for practice, as likely would her class at school.)

Also, how do we convey the related terms:

  • "thrifter" (this noun is used at both wholesale and retail levels for: one who gathers nice secondhand objects/ clothing for their personal use, and for: one who makes money by finding items to thrift to others)

    and "thrift store" (both countable nouns)

  • 1
    Is there really a difference in meaning between “thrifting” and “buying/selling second-hand”? Oct 19, 2021 at 18:18
  • From listening to youth, the difference between the entire phrase of "buying / selling second-hand" and "thrifting" is nuanced but does seem to exist. Thrifting has an air of looking for gold, versus just looking for anything that could be used, although we may appraise an item as just functional and not gold. Finding items is considered a treasure hunt. "Thrifting" is also much less cumbersome. I have never heard that longer phrase used by someone younger than say 30. And I have not heard that phrase at all in many years, in street usage.
    – Katarina
    Oct 19, 2021 at 18:26
  • @Gilles'SOnousesthostile' I think thrift shops are usually run by charities. Thrift shops in the US are what they call Charity shops in Britain (like Oxfam or Barnardo's in Britain). So it's slightly different in its purpose. Although this is not clear in OP's question (cf. "often"). If not always a charity the proper word to use in French for "thrift shop" would be friperie. But there's no corresponding verb in French and one would have to make up a paraphrase according to context. . For ex. Aller faire le tour des friperies, aller faire ses courses dans les friperies...
    – None
    Oct 19, 2021 at 18:32
  • Buying from thrift shops (not necessarily charities) is very trendy in France as well, as you can see from these sites: Mode éthique et friperie : les basiques indispensables à avoir !, 15 conseils pour s'habiller vintage et dénicher des trésors en friperie. Maybe in Québec they have already made up a verb.
    – None
    Oct 19, 2021 at 18:54
  • 1
    faire les friperies? comme p.ex. faire les magazins. There is also dépôts-ventes which are second hand shops and the regular word for friperie (for clothes). Most second hand shops in the US are the same as a thrift shop. Dépots-ventes is also for furniture and household goods just like thrift shops in the US. French is a nominalizing language rather than a verbing/verbalising one. English is full of verbs. French is full of nouns. So: faire les [magazins, les friperies, les brocanteurs, les dépôts-ventes]] is more typical in French. chiner works but not so much for clothes...
    – Lambie
    Oct 19, 2021 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


There is a term that has been used as far back as the mid 19th century, but then it was rather applicable to people whose business consisted in buying used wares and objects so as to sell them with profit.

(TLFi) −chiner Brocanter, chercher des occasions
♦ En ce moment, Rémonencq, réconcilié avec son ancien bourgeois Monistrol, en affaires avec de gros marchands, allait chiner (...) dans la banlieue de Paris, qui, vous le savez, comporte un rayon de quarante lieues. Balzac, Le Cousin Pons,1847, p. 109.

Apparently, this is a word that has taken some recent importance and that would be applied now to the consumer.

(Wiktionnaire) chiner \ʃi.ne\ transitif ou intransitif 1er groupe (voir la conjugaison)
(Intransitif, ou parfois transitif) Chercher des occasions (chiffonniers, brocanteurs).
♦ Quitte parfois le bureau en milieu d’après-midi pour aller s’occuper de sa trentaine de ruches ou chiner des poteries antiques. — (Site www.lepoint.fr)
♦ Il aimait chiner dans les brocantes pour retaper sa maison et la décorer dans un style traditionnel et ancien. — (Jacques Bellanger, Le Puzzle de Dan Alaric, 2010)
♦ Tout dans la salle, la vaisselle comme l’ameublement, avait été chiné chez des antiquaires et formait un mélange coquet et disparate de meubles copiés du dix-huitième siècle français, de bibelots Art Nouveau, de vaisselle et de porcelaine anglaises. — (Michel Houellebecq, La carte et le territoire, 2010, J’ai lu, page 64)

Of course, you can say "aller chiner" as a translation of "to go thrifting".

Here is a confirmation of the shift in the usage of the verb.

(internaute) chineur , >nom Féminin chineuse. Sens 1 Familier Personne qui aime chiner, c'est-à-dire découvrir des objets originaux dans les brocantes.
Le "chineur" était à l'origine un professionnel, antiquaire ou brocanteur, qui savait dénicher la perle rare.

One word that would render "thrift store", at least often enough, would be "brocanteur"; "marché aux puces" is another one.

(TLFi) brocanteur Personne faisant commerce d'objets d'occasion, généralement de peu de valeur. Synon. revendeur, euse (cf. antiquaire, bouquiniste, fripier).Des livres d'occasion, (...) ramassés chez les brocanteurs, ou à la foire aux puces (Romains, Les Hommes de bonne volonté,Le 6 octobre, 1932, p. 94):

A colloquial expression : faire les brocanteurs


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