Can You Identify the Correct Spelling of These French Vocabulary Words?

By: Brittany Rowland
Image: martin-dm / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

If you went to the typical American high school, then you got to choose between French, German and Spanish class for foreign language credits. You may have learned basic French vocabulary, held mock French conversations about the weather and — if you were lucky — got to sample some French goodies.

But how much of that high-school French do you remember now? Can you still hold a fairly intelligible conversation ("la plume de ma tante est violette"), or do you clam up when someone starts speaking rapidly en français? Perhaps you try to maintain your French knowledge, watching movies with French subtitles or language dubbing. Maybe you visit Paris when you can and converse as best you can with the locals.

There are numerous benefits to learning a second language. Not only does it help boost memory skills and lessen the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease, but it also gives you the chance to make new friends and learn about a different culture. So whether your French is in tip-top shape or as rusty as a bicycle left out in la pluie (the rain), take a chance at this French spelling quiz! Don't be nerveux, your high-school French prof won't see the results!


Your toolbox supplies are running low. Can you spell "hardware store"?

This word is just fun to say. It comes from the blending of "quincaille," which means hardware or metal tools, and "-erie," which is a suffix indicating a shop where something is sold.

Time to take out the garbage. What's the correct spelling of "trash can"?

In the 1880s, French lawyer Eugène Poubelle mandated that all Parisian building owners provide residents with trash cans. Hence, the French named the dustbin after him. What an honor!

Little Miss Muffet was scared of this eight-legged creature. Can you spell "spider"?

It's no surprise that this word comes from the Greek "arákhnē," meaning spider. You can also say "toile d'araignée" for cobweb and "Homme Araignée" for — you guessed it — Spider-Man!

"Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home ..." Can you spell the French word for "ladybug"?

The French got this name for the ladybug from the genus Coccinella, which comes from the Latin word for "dyed scarlet." Seems like an appropriate way to describe these gentle, red insects.

The birds in Paris enjoy the baguette crumbs that fall to the ground. What's the French spelling of "bird"?

The simple word for bird has a long history. In old French, it was "oisel," which later evolved into "oyseau." The French in fact took the word from the Late Latin form of bird, "aucellus."

There's only one way to spell the French word for "firefly," and it's which of the following?

The French borrowed this word from their Italian friends, who call it a "lucciola." Ultimately, like so many words, it traces its roots back to Latin: "luceo," which means "I shine."

It's your friend's anniversaire (birthday)! You head to the bakery for a gateau (cake). But can you spell "bakery"?

If you visit Paris, you simply must try the food at a patisserie. You'll find a delectable assortment of pastries, baguettes, croissants, quiches and other baked goods. Bon appetit!

Pee-yew! Did your friend have beans again, or is there a skunk nearby? Can you spell "skunk"?

"Moufette" is such an adorable name for such a pungent creature! The French borrowed the word from the Italian "moffetta." We think it should be the name of the next cute Disney sidekick.

At the aquarium, you see an incredible whale. How do you spell "whale" in French?

Well, when we hear "baleine," we think of baleen whales, which have thick hairs instead of teeth that let them catch krill and filter out water. "Baleine" comes from the Greek for whale.

A "female coworker" is spelled this way in French.

This is the female form of "collaborateur" and means collaborator, colleague or coworker. "Trice" is a common French female suffix, as in "actrice" (actress) and "sénatrice" (senator).

Can you spell "bread" in French? Our favorite kind is bread with chocolate!

You know that chocolate bread we mentioned earlier? Try ordering "pain au chocolat" the next time you visit France, and prepare to fall in love. Or you can have "pain grillé," simple toast.

Peanut butter may not be popular in France, but you can still find its counterpart, jam. Can you spell "jam"?

The French love their jams and have a wide variety: confiture de framboise (raspberry), confiture à la fraise (strawberry), confiture d'abricot (apricot) and confiture de lait (milk jam).

The flowers outside are looking parched. Can you spell "hose," and then water the poor flowers?

If you want to get extra fancy and show off your French, you can refer to your "tuyau d'arrosage," or garden hose. "Tuyau" derives from the Old French word "tuel," meaning tube or pipe.

On a hot summer day, there's no better place to be than the "swimming pool." But can you spell this refreshing place?

The Old French word "piscine" actually meant fishpond and evolved from the Latin word "piscis," or fish. Today we generally like our pools free of fish, unless there's a grill nearby.

You take your hair care seriously, and you definitely know how to spell "shampoo" in French. Right?

Yes, the French word for "shampoo" looks like the present participle of "shampoo" in English. And don't forget the "après-shampooing," or hair conditioner, for better hair health!

Garçon, there's hair in my soup! Hope you can spell "hair"!

"Cheveux" is the plural form of "cheveu," or hair on the head. It apparently came from the Latin "capillus," meaning hair. Now let your cheveux down and have a soirée amusante (fun night)!

It's zok to admit it ... you still have your favorite doll from childhood. How do you spell "doll"?

"Poupée" can trace its history back to the Latin "pūpa‎," which means little girl or doll. Then you have variants like poupée de papier (paper doll) and poupée Barbie (that one's obvious).

To eat your coq au vin, you need a fork. Now spell "fork."

"Fourchette" evolved from the Latin word for pitchfork. In case you were wondering, a spoon is "cuiller" and a knife is "couteau." And, of course, a "fourchette à salade" is a salad fork.

You're fascinated by the human "skeleton," but can you spell it in French?

All the forms of "skeleton" are similarly spooky: skeletos (Greek), esqueleto (Spanish), scheletro (Italian), iskelet (Turkish) and squelette (French). Dem bones gonna walk around!

There's nothing more satisfying than hearing a cat purr. Can you spell the French word for "to purr"?

Here is one of those words that sounds like the idea it's describing. Yes, like onomatopoeia! Think of this word the next time your cat is purring as loudly as an ancient car engine!

A bat swoops low over your head in the dark cave. Quick, spell "bat" in French!

This French word is fun because it mashes together two different words to make a new one: "chauve," meaning bald, and "souris," meaning mouse. Now, why didn't they go with "flying mouse"?

If only you could shake off this mopey feeling. How do you spell the French phrase for "to feel blue"?

This is a French expression meaning to feel low or blue or be depressed. It literally means "to have a cockroach." So the next time you just can't handle work, say, "J'ai le cafard."

You're such a French whiz, you know how to spell this word for "rubber."

The French most likely took "caoutchouc" from the Spanish "cauchuc," which in turn came from the Quechua word "kauchuk." This one's tricky to say, but its mashup of vowels is intriguing.

The caterpillar's transformation to a papillon (butterfly) is amazing. Can you spell "caterpillar"?

English-speakers recognize chenille as a soft fabric. The French word comes from Latin. In this case, "canīcula" is the Latin for little dog, which supposedly resembles a caterpillar head.

Despite its spelling in French, a "bookstore" doesn't let you check out books for free ...

Yes, "librairie" means bookstore in French, while a library is a "bibliothèque." Evidently librairie took the meaning of bookshop in the 16th century, replacing the original library meaning.

C'est dommage! Your friend has the flu. Can you spell "flu" to cheer them up?

Perhaps because of how the influenza can get a strong "grip" on you, many languages have adopted the French word "grippe" to describe this unpleasant illness. It's even used in English!

Time for a vacation! Can you spell the French word for the "sea"?

The French word "mer" comes from the Latin "mare" for sea. Other sea-related words in French include "plage" (beach), "sable" (sand), "coquillage" (seashell) and "sirène" (mermaid).

Don't shake your "finger" at me! Spell it instead.

The French word for finger came from the Latin "digitus." Originally, the French spelled it "doit," but added the G to avoid confusion with the French verb. It's pronounced "dwa."

Can you (hic) spell the (hic) French word for "to hiccup"?

The onomatopoeic word almost sounds like a hiccup. The H is silent, so "hoquet" sounds similar to "okay." We just wonder if the French have any unique tricks for getting rid of the hiccups!

If you love "yogurt" as a snack, you should be able to spell it in French.

"Yaourt" is notoriously one of the hardest French words for English-speakers to pronounce. It and the English "yogurt" both came from the Turkish word "yoğurt." Try it with "miel" (honey).

Ready to hit the sack? First spell "bed" in French.

This is French Vocabulary 101. Any traveler who visits France needs to know how to ask "Où est le lit?" (Where is the bed?) when they're jetlagged and ready to "endormir" (fall asleep).

Spelling "cat" in French isn't so hard, right?

"Chat" comes from the Latin "cattus." It appears in the French proverb "chat échaudé craint l'eau froide," which literally means "a scalded cat fears cold water." A "chaton" is a kitten.

Zut! A "flat tire" on the way to work. Can you spell it though?

"Pneu" is just a shortening of "pneumatique" and comes from the Greek word relating to air or wind. If you get a pneu à plat, it may be a good idea to visit a "mécanicien" (mechanic).

When in France, eat the frog legs! And see if you can spell "frog."

Even though frog legs as a delicacy are associated with France, they're also quite popular in many Asian and European countries. Word has it they taste just like "poulet" — that is, chicken.

It's good to make friends wherever you go. Can you spell "friend" in French?

"Ami" (or the feminine "amie") sounds similar to the Spanish "amigo" and Italian "amico." Of course, that's because they all come from the Latin for friend, "amicus." Au revoir, ami!

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