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The English word "grape" is apparently also from French, although une grappe refers to a whole bunch of grapes, not just one grape.

In English the word "raisin" refers to a dried grape, whereas in French, un raisin might be assumed to be a plump juicy fresh grape.

I am a little unsure of the commonly suggested terminology un raisin sec, i.e., "dry grape" as if there are one or two shriveled up on the vine, or else one is referring to something entirely different, a type of "dry wine" (vin sec) for instance.

Not to mention "vine" in English refers to the stem or the branch of the grape plant, not le vin or "the wine."

Apparently grapes are typically made into wine in France, not "dried" commercially as raisins sold in U.S. supermarkets. And I have not really heard or seen the term raisins séchés in use although this would seem more accurate and descriptive of the product I am referring to, raisins qui ont été séchés.

Or what is best way to avoid confusion where it appears that a certain degree of intemperance has affected the use of language over time?

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    In Jean de Florette, Ugolin tells Jean that due to the drought, all the farmer's raisins are « comme ceux qu'on met dans la brioche » !
    – Luke Sawczak
    Aug 29, 2022 at 0:58
  • So far the weather has not been dry enough in France to produce large quantities of raisins secs (which would be "dried grapes" in English, and not "dry grapes"). Wikipedia has good articles on the subject. You might want to review your question (not very clear at this point) after you understand more of the process used to dry the grapes to make raisin, which are definitely not dried on the vine. As far as I know the only kind of dried fruit France produces is *pruneau" and they are not dried in the sun (of which there would not be enough) but in industrial conveniences.
    – None
    Aug 29, 2022 at 7:03
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    You might also compare the English "prune" and "plum" with French prune and pruneau.
    – None
    Aug 29, 2022 at 7:05
  • No relation to your question, but your quotes look wrong.《》are (according to wikipedia) Chinese quotes. The French ones are «».
    – Melvyn
    Aug 29, 2022 at 11:37
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    @FlorianCastellane Vigne comes from the Latin vinea, definitely related to vinum. On the other hand vitis gave the French viticulture which despite the similarity isn't reported to be etymologically related.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 31, 2022 at 7:36

3 Answers 3

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How does one refer to "raisins" in French?

We call them raisins secs.

The French grappe doesn't mean "bunch of grapes" but just "cluster" so une grappe de raisin translates to "a cluster of grapes".

Unlike other Romance languages that kept the Latin uva to name the fruit, French took the Latin racimus/recimus (cluster of grapes) to do it.

Raisin is often uncountable: j'ai acheté du raisin is more usual than j'ai acheté des raisins.

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That's also the reason why raisin is often singular in une grappe de raisin (unlike the English "of grapes".) To name a single grape, we usually say un grain de raisin instead of un raisin.

Grappe has a Germanic origin from a word meaning "hook", cognates with "grasp". It still exists with this old meaning in the colloquial idiom lâche-moi la grappe (literally: "drop the hook from me", i.e. give me a break, leave me alone). See also un grappin.

Note that we do not call a "cluster of bananas" a grappe de bananes but a régime de bananes. Interestingly, this régime, like raisins, comes from the Vulgar Latin racimus but this time via the Spanish racimo meaning "cluster".

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    Re "Raisin is often uncountable: j'ai acheté du raisin is more usual than j'ai acheté des raisins.", This might be regional? Always countable here. ("J'ai acheté/mangé/etc des raisins").
    – ikegami
    Aug 29, 2022 at 13:52
  • @ikegami Maybe, we do not know where is "here" but I would be surprised the uncountable usage would be unknown by native French. Anyway, I'm talking about common usage in France.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 29, 2022 at 14:40
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    Le français est me langue maternelle. Je suis Canadien (NB, pas QC). Your graph shows "des raisins" is consistently used at least one times in 3 between "des raisins" and "du raisin", so it does appear quite popular.
    – ikegami
    Aug 29, 2022 at 15:10
  • @ikegami Oui, je n'ai pas écrit que raisin était toujours indénombrable, seulement qu'il était plus souvent employé comme ça. On dit aussi bien sûr aussi J'ai acheté des raisins par chez nous mais moins que j'ai acheté du raisin alors que par exemple on dira beaucoup plus J'ai acheté des pommes que j'ai acheté de la pomme.
    – jlliagre
    Aug 29, 2022 at 15:28
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    @Michael Both grappe and raisins are faux-amis indeed. For bananas, there is a specific word, un régime de bananes (where régime is a faux-ami too [answer updated], not to mention régime might also mean "diet"). The words grappe is very often followed by de raisin(s) but we can say une grappe de groseilles, de lilas, de fruits, de fleurs, etc. and even sometimes une grappe d'ordinateurs (a computer cluster).
    – jlliagre
    Aug 29, 2022 at 21:11
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The adjective sec can have several meanings.

If we look at the TLF we have the following definition:

Qui a subi un traitement destiné à la déshydratation plus ou moins complètement, généralement pour assurer sa conservation1.

which is the meaning used in raisins secs, it qualifies a dehydrated substance.

When used for wine the word sec does not refer to a harder or softer substance induced by a greater or lesser quantity of humidity but to the taste which can vary according to the quantity of sugar contained in the wine. Un vin sec (less sugar) is opposed to vin doux (more sugar).
Again if we look at the TLF:

  1. [Qualifie un vin] Peu liquoreux, à saveur plus ou moins acide2.

In raisins secs (as in abricots secs) sec refers to the end product. For other fruit we would say figues séchées, bananes séchées, etc... referring to the process and not to the end product.
Fruits secs is a generic term that is only used for nuts, and where the word sec qualifies a substance that has not been dehydrated, but that is dry by nature.


1 Which has undergone a treatment intended to dehydrate it more or less completely, generally to ensure its preservation.
2 [Qualifies a wine] Not very sweet, with a more or less acidic taste.

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Raisins secs (and fruits séchés in general) are a common feature in France, and can be bought in any supermarket or at a maraichers (grocery store). However, it is necessary to point out that the grapes used to make dry grapes are usually not the same as those used for making wine.

La grappe refers to a part of a plant, whereas raisin/raisins refers to the fruits that people eat. This is somewhat similar to how in English one uses different terms to refer to an animal and its meat: pig/pork, cow/beef, etc.

English has borrowed quite a lot of words from French, and unsurprizingly some of them have changed their meaning and became translator's false friends, like grape and grappe (one could also mention grappa - strong alcoholic beverage produced in Italy... obviously from grapes.) However, in the case of wine/vine we likely have correspondence wine-vin and vine-vigne.

Remark:
@None has brought my attention to the difference between fruits séchés and fruits secs. The former are raisins secs, abricots secs, figues séchées, etc. On the other hand, fruits sec are nuts and similar.

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    As a French native and cook addict, I would never qualify raisins secs as fruits secs.
    – None
    Aug 29, 2022 at 7:54
  • @None Thanks for pointing it out that fruits secs refers to something different. What would be a generic term for raisin sec, pruneau sec, abricot sec, etc.?
    – Roger V.
    Aug 29, 2022 at 7:57
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    Usually pruneau (only used for the dried fruit, if Fresh it is prune, so no sec with it), abricots secs and raisins secs. To refer to figues séchées, bananes séchées, pruneaux and other dried fruit I'd say fruits séchés. If I walk into a store and want to know where they keep the raisins secs and figues séchées I'd say "où sont les fruits séchés", but in most stores fruits secs and fruits séchés are kept on the same shelves.
    – None
    Aug 29, 2022 at 8:15
  • @None Thanks, I updated my answer. I hope you do not mind using your knowledge (I mentioned you).
    – Roger V.
    Aug 29, 2022 at 8:38
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    Absolutely no problem! The point is to give correct info, not to score. Also: maraichers grows vegetables, and might sell them on the farm or the local market, but they are primarily growers. I think the word you wanted to use is épicier.
    – None
    Aug 29, 2022 at 8:57

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