Verlan - French Slang

Group of people walking in a market, Nice, France

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Verlan is a form of French slang that consists of playing around with syllables, kind of along the same lines as pig Latin. Unlike pig Latin, however, verlan is actively spoken in France. Many verlan words have become so commonplace that they are used in everyday French.

To "verlan" a word, simply separate it into syllables, reverse them, and put the word back together. In order to maintain the correct pronunciation, the verlaned word often undergoes some spelling adjustments. Unnecessary letters are dropped, while other letters are added to make pronunciation logical. There are no real rules for this; it's just something to be aware of. Note that not every word can or should be verlaned; verlan is used essentially to emphasize or hide the meaning of the main word(s) in a sentence.

How It Works

Let's start with the word l'envers, which means "the reverse." Separate l'envers into its two syllables l'en and vers. Invert them, put them together into a single word, and then adjust the spelling:

  • l'envers... l'en vers... vers l'en... versl'en... verslen... verlen... verlan

Thus, you can see that verlan is l'envers pronounced à l'envers ("reverse" pronounced in reverse).

Let's try another example:

  • pourri... pou rri... rri pou... rripou... ripou

Most single-syllable words are just pronounced backwards.

  • fou > ouf
  • cool (from English) > looc

Take It a Step Further

The above examples are pretty simple, but verlan gets more complicated when it comes to the e muet, which is a very important sound in verlan. Words that end in e muet (like femme) and words which end in a pronounced consonant and which usually have an e muet sound tacked onto the end (like flic, which is usually pronounced "flique") retain the sound of the e muet when they are verlaned. In addition, when the syllables are reversed, the resulting final vowel sound is sometimes dropped.

  • flic... fli keu... keu fli... keufli... keuf
  • femme... fa meu... meu fa... meufa... meuf
  • arabe... a ra beu... beu ra a... beura... beur

Verlan was invented as a secret language, a way for people (notably youths, drug users, and criminals) to communicate freely in front of authority figures (parents, police). Because much of verlan has become incorporated into French, verlan continues to evolve - sometimes words are "re-verlaned." Beur, commonly heard in the 1980s, has been reversed again to reub. Keuf has been re-verlaned to feuk, with a bonus - it now resembles a vulgar word in English.

Here are some common verlan terms that you should be able to recognize. Remember that verlan is a form of slang, so you probably shouldn't use it when talking to someone you vouvoie.

balpeau   verlan of peau de balle
meaning: nothing, zip

barjot   verlan of jobard
meaning: crazy, insane

un beur (now reub)   un Arabe
meaning: Arab

bléca   verlan of cablé
meaning: trendy, in

un brelica   verlan of un calibre
meaning: revolver

une cecla   verlan of une classe
meaning: class

céfran   verlan of français
meaning: French

chanmé   verlan of méchant
meaning: mean, nasty

chébran   verlan of branché
meaning: cool, plugged in

chelou   verlan of louche
meaning: shady, dubious

une cinepi   verlan of une piscine
meaning: pool

une deban   verlan of une bande
meaning: group, band

un skeud   verlan of un disque
meaning: record, album

fais ièche   verlan of fais chier
meaning: it's boring, annoying

un féca   verlan of un café
meaning: café

être au fumpar   verlan of être au parfum
meaning: to be in the know

une gnolba   verlan of une bagnole
meaning: car, junker

geudin   verlan of dingue
meaning: crazy

jourbon   verlan of bonjour
meaning: hello

un kebla   verlan of un Black (from English)
meaning: Black person

kéblo   verlan of bloqué
meaning: blocked, caught

un keuf (now feuk)   verlan of un flic
meaning: police officer (equivalent to cop, copper, pig)

un keum   verlan of un mec
meaning: guy, dude

laisse béton   verlan of laisse tomber
meaning: forget it, drop it

un lépou   verlan of un poulet
meaning: police officer (equivalent to cop, copper, pig)

looc   verlan of cool (from English)
meaning: cool

une meuf   verlan of une femme
meaning: woman, wife

ouf   verlan of fou
meaning: crazy

pécho   verlan of une choper
meaning: to steal, nick; to get caught

une péclot   verlan of une clope
meaning: cigarette

le pera   verlan of le rap
meaning: rap (music)

un quèm   verlan of un mec
meaning: guy

une raquebar   verlan of une baraque
meaning: house

relou   verlan of lourd
meaning: heavy

les rempa   verlan of les parents
meaning: parents

un reuf   verlan of un frère
meaning: brother

une reum   verlan of une mère
meaning: mother

un reup   verlan of un père
meaning: father

une reus   verlan of une sœur
meaning: sister

ripou   verlan of pourri
meaning: rotten, corrupt

la siquemu / la sicmu   verlan of la musique
meaning: music

un sub   verlan of un bus
meaning: bus

être dans le tarcol   verlan of être dans le coltar
meaning: to be exhausted

une teibou   verlan of une bouteille
meaning: bottle

une teuf   verlan of une fête
meaning: party

tirape   verlan of partir
meaning: to leave

tisor   verlan of sortir
meaning: to go out

une tof   verlan of une photo
meaning: photograph

la tourv   verlan of la voiture
meaning: car

le tromé   verlan of le métro
meaning: subway

zarbi   verlan of bizarre
meaning: strange

un zarfal   verlan of un falzar
meaning: pants, trousers

une zesgon   verlan of une gonzesse
meaning: girl, chick

zyva   verlan of vas-y
meaning: go

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Team, ThoughtCo. "Verlan - French Slang." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). Verlan - French Slang. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Verlan - French Slang." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).