Ten unusual facts about the French language

23rd August, 2016
Often nicknamed ‘the language of love’, French, like any other language has its quirks and interesting aspects that make its speakers proud to converse in it. Have you ever wondered what the longest French town name is? Read on to find out this and many more unusual facts about the French language. You’ll be sure to impress everyone when you go on your luxury French holidays!

Besides English, French is the only other language spoken on every continent. While we know there are a few countries in Europe which speak French, so do many countries in West Africa, as well as Canada in North America, French Guiana in South America and the island nation of Vanuatu in Oceania.

The longest French word is the chemical name for thiamine, aminométhylpyrimidinylhydroxyéthylméthythiazolium. It’s an impressive 49 letters long.

Until the 19th century, French was more widely spoken in some areas of Germany and the Netherlands than in some parts of France.

Oiseaux, meaning birds in French, is the longest word where you don’t pronounce any of the letters individually. There are a few words which don’t rhyme with any others in the language. These are simple (simple), quatorze (fourteen), quinze (fifteen) and monstre (monster).

The longest town name in France can be found in the Marne department in the north-east of the country: Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont-Saint-Genest-et-Isson.


Conversely, the shortest town name in France is just one letter long: Y, in the Somme region of northern France.

The French language is strictly governed by the Academie Française. Established in 1635, the institution decides on what vocabulary is accepted into the French language, as well as the proper use of the language.

Around a third of English words come from French, and can be attributed largely to the Norman invasion of 1066. Some examples include challenge, pride and pedigree.

French comes from the Romance family of languages, meaning it is one of a few languages which have elements derived from Latin. This is why you can see a number of similarities between French and other languages such as Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Romanian, Catalan, Provençal and Romansch make up the remainder of the Romance languages.