I remember using the word "courriel" with a French acquaintance. They found it funny and said nobody uses it in French and that I should just say "email" like everybody else.

I had read somewhere that "courriel" had been introduced to replace the English loanword by the Academy. Is it usual that these words don't catch on, was this one unusual in not being adopted, or was my informant just wrong?

  • You should definitely qualify your geographical notion of success: some (many) words mentioned below are widely used in Québec, but absolutely unknown in France.
    – Dave
    Aug 26, 2011 at 0:24
  • 3
    side note: I might be wrong, but I believe the official Académie-recommended translation of email is [the horribly clunky] "mêl". "Courriel" is the much-older Québecois term for it, but is also quite commonly used in France.
    – Dave
    Aug 26, 2011 at 0:31
  • Mél, pour Message ÉLectronique est très rarement employé, mais courriel est en usage dans beaucoup d'administrations françaises.
    – Personne
    Sep 5, 2015 at 16:39

4 Answers 4


There are several words or expressions that were successful - just not all of them in France. Navette Spatiale for Space Shuttle is one expression I remember being made fun of in a newspaper article when the official suggestion came out, and yet it stuck.

Courriel is widely used in Quebec, and it is one of the examples of how neither the French nor the Quebecois can really claim superiority in terms of not-using-anglicisms: When the French check their emails, they go "consulter les emails", whereas the Quebecois, they go "chequer les courriels".

  • 4
    Anybody who has spoken French long enough in Quebec, would know better than trying to argue some sort of superiority on "not-using anglicisms" ;-) Québécois is filled to the brim with anglicisms (big ones and small ones), in a way the French could never achieve (unless the UK succeeds in their next attempt at reclaiming the Bordelais and settle as neighbours for a couple hundred years). That being said, I think Québécois neologisms are generally better thought-of and more successful than french ones.
    – Dave
    Aug 26, 2011 at 0:28
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    @Dave: Don't ever dare to mention this in public here - every now and then, a fiery debate erupts in letters to the editor, where both sides protest the other's long list of foreign words. I mean, they say week-end in France! - And they say cute in Quebec! etc.
    – Jonas
    Aug 26, 2011 at 12:36
  • Logiciel, replacing Software in 1974 is clearly the most successful
  • Hameçonnage, replacing Phishing according to the "Office québécois pour la langue française" has some success (hey, even Microsoft uses it !)
  • Publipostage for Mailing

To answer the question, a few do catch on, most of them are used to have a good laugh, such as the infamous bolidage chipped in to replace tuning.

  • +1 on logiciel. Important note on the two other: they are virtually unknown outside of Québec (first time I ever heard "hameçonnage"). I believe bolidage is quite used in Belgium (would need confirmation).
    – Dave
    Aug 26, 2011 at 0:34
  • 4
    Together with Logiciel, there is Ordinateur.
    – mouviciel
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:22
  • @mouviciel: yes, Ordinateur for Computer. Note that in 1970s you would have used Calculateur (that is a more direct translation) - meaning has slipped. Also note that French uses masculine nouns in this case - in Spanish they use Computador or Computadora as far as I know. Sep 3, 2014 at 9:31
  • There is also Navigateur for Browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and previously Netscape, Mosaic). Netscape's browser official name was Netscape Navigator. Sep 3, 2014 at 9:40
  • N'oublions pas le ridicule "cédérom"... d'une manière générale je trouve que les tentatives de traductions sont, au mieux, incongrues...
    – Laurent S.
    Sep 7, 2015 at 10:47

Courriel is not that unused, I think it's even quite common, in the same vein you had pourriel for spam.

  • I just checked and even the french courriel provider laposte.net uses indésirables instead of pourriel
    – Smugrik
    Aug 25, 2011 at 22:12

Désolé de m'exprimer en français, mais je préfère cela à mon pauvre anglais !

La loi Toubon a établi en 1994 des réformes majeures, largement suivies, pour défendre et promouvoir la langue française. Cela a déjà dû être abordé ici.

Les succès de cette méthode sont incontestables, et ont permis de freiner l'invasion du sabir anglo-saxon dans les moyens de communication et les institutions. Tous les termes étrangers émergents font immédiatement l'objet de propositions francisées, souvent simples et adaptées à la langue courante. Le site https://wikilf.culture.fr/ en est un bon exemple, les recommandations des contributeurs débouchant rapidement sur des décisions officielles souvent suivies d'effet.

Depuis vingt ans, ce sont des milliers de mots ou expressions qui sont passées sans bruit en tournures françaises, dans les domaines culturel, sportif, technique, technologique ou social. Voyez http://www.culture.fr/franceterme. Mais cela fait moins de bruit que quelques rares mots (toujours les mêmes) sur lesquels s'affrontent certains internautes.

Il y a des ratés, c'est sûr. Nous avons gagné la bataille de la tablette ou du téléchargement, mais perdu celle du Smartphone. Et alors ? Ces technologies se périment vite, et leur bruit commercial avec. À ma connaissance, nous continuons de manger, de boire, de nous habiller, de circuler, de nous aimer avec des mots français.

Bonne réflexion à tous...

  • 1
    L'immédiateté est discutable, notamment dans les milieux technologiques. Les propositions surviennent généralement six bons mois après que les technophiles aient déjà adopté le terme anglais. Pour pouvoir remplacer ce terme, il faut alors que la proposition soit simple, courte (liseuse parvient à s'imposer progressivement, mais téléphone intelligent était clairement trop long pour remplacer smartphone (on triple le nombre de syllabes)). Il ne faut pas oublier que la langue française est parlée. S'il faut choisir entre deux alternatives, l'individu se tournera vers la plus simple.
    – Chop
    Sep 4, 2015 at 5:28

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