French speakers, learners and people who like quizzes; I’ve got a question for you. What does this mean?: Jourbon, le reuf ! Je suis vénère… J’ai eu une journée ouf*. Any ideas? Maybe you’re not familiar with verlan. 

Verlan à l’envers is a form of French slang that works, as you might have guessed from the name, by breaking up the syllables of words and reversing them. Verlan was created because civilians wanted a way to communicate with each other without authority figures being able to understand them. Although it was originally used as a way to conceal illegal activity, verlan has become a permanent fixture of the French vernacular. 

How does verlan work?

For single-syllable words, the vowel sound tends to be retained and the consonant the word begins with is placed at the end of the word. For example, soeur becomes reus. The word verlan itself is reversed (verlan – l’envers), making it a homological word (it does what it says on the tin). The sounds tend to stay the same after they’re reversed, like the word verlan.

Words often keep the same amount of syllables and have letters that ensure they keep the original sound. For example, femme (woman) becomes meuf. The letters change but the vowel sound remains the same.

There are some exceptions. Verlaniser policeman (Flic) and you get keuf, dropping the L altogether. If you want to become familiar with this form of slang, see our list below to get started. 

1. Céfran (français – French)

It makes sense that the first word you learn in verlan is how to say ‘French’. Better yet, this word perfectly exemplifies how verlan works. 

Français – Fran çais – çais Fran – Céfran

While the spelling might be different, you can see that all that happened to get the verlan version of French is to swap the syllables around. Easy peasy (Seaee Seepy?).

2. Tromé (métro – Metro)

Like Céfran, Tromé is an easy verlan word to make sense of. Swap the syllables and whadya know? Metro. 

Métro – Mé tro – Tro mé – Tromé

You might not necessarily use it to ask a stranger for directions to the nearest metro station, but it’s still a good word to know. 

3. Oit et Oim (toi et moi – you and me)

The French language is regarded as one of the most beautiful languages in the world. The verlan version of these pronouns calls the aforementioned belief into question a little…

Toi et moi – t oi et m oi – oit et oim

As you can see, the ‘oi’ sound is retained, so rather than an entire reversal of ‘iom’, you get a swap, ‘oim’. Pronounced like ‘wut’ and ‘wum’. 

4. Meuf (la femme – woman)

No, this isn’t the sound you make when you’ve tripped over. Work backwards with me… 

La femme – femme – fu-em – me-uf – meuf!

Ta da! This word is now so commonplace that it features in the Petit Larousse, a French language encyclopedic dictionary. 

5. Reuf  (le frère – brother)

Like in many languages, greeting a male friend with ‘frère’ is common in France. To do it verlan style, you do slightly more than just reversing the syllables.

Frère – Frè re – Re Frè – Refre – Reuf

In this example the second r is removed so it remains a single-syllable word. Pronounced a little like a dog’s bark. Reuf reuf!

6. Reum (la mère – mother)

This verlan word provides another example of when a single syllable word gains an ‘ou’ sound, even though the original word doesn’t have the same sound. 

Mère – Mè re – Er em – Erem – Reum 

This is a very colloquial way to say ‘mum’ and probably not the most polite. Proceed with caution. You might refer to your mum as this behind her back but best not to her face.

7. Vénère (énervé – angry)

Another common verlan word, this is one to be familiar with as it comes up a lot. Some examples: “j’étais trop vénère !” (I was so mad), “il m’a trop vénère !” (He made me so angry!)

8. Teuf (la fête – party)

If you wanna feel down with the kids, tell people you’re going to a teuf. (You can also use Ressoi, which is verlan for ‘soirée’).They’ll think you’re really cool. Or maybe they’ll think you’re a…

9. Chanmé (méchant – cool)

Remember moments ago when people thought you were really cool for going to a teuf? You’re just so chanmé 😉 

10. Ouf (fou – great)

Technically this is verlan for crazy (fou), but you use it to mean great. If you want to say something was not amazing, you can say ‘c’est pas ouf!’. This is also the French word for ‘phew!’. Ouf, we’re halfway through the list!

11. À donf (à fond – thorough)

You might use à donf to describe this this extensive list of verlan slang. It can also be used to mean ‘a lot’. Some examples: “j’étais à donf” means I was enjoying it to the maximum, or “elle roulait à donf” means she was speeding.

12. À oilpé (à poil – naked) 

Could you guess the original word? ‘Le poil’ alone means hair, but the expression verlan reverses is ‘à poil’. This word adds an ‘e’ on the end. Unlike oit and oim, the consonant doesn’t close the word. Pronounced “wualpé”. 

13. Reuch (cher – expensive)

This is used to describe something pricey. Easy to remember as it sounds a bit like ‘rich’. 

14. Pécho (choper – to catch)

Choper means to grab. But in verlan, it can mean to date, kiss or hook up with someone. 

15. Le iep (le pied – foot)

This one might be a little harder to guess written down. Figuring out the verlan version of pied relies on the French silent d – auditorily, this word makes perfect sense! 

Pied – ed ip – e ip – eip – iep

Figuring out the verlan version of pied relies on the French silent d – auditorily, this word makes perfect sense!

16. Teubé (bête – stupid)

You might feel a little stupid using this word, but at least be aware of it so you know it’s an insult. 

17. La barbe (le beubar – beard)

This one’s easy to remember if you associate it with the word barber, but a barber for the face… Maybe it’s not that easy. 

18. La tof (photo – picture)

If you wana grab a quick picture, you could call it grabbing a tof! 

19. Kéblo (bloqué – to be stuck)

After numerous explanations, I hope you’re not feeling kébblo about how to use verlan… 

20. Cimer (merci – thank you)

Last but not least, this polite word is easy to work out. That said, it can be used in a passive aggressive way, so maybe don’t use it with your boss. 

And cimer for reading this list!

Learning some verlan words is a great way to expand your French vocabulary, but also to strengthen your knowledge of French by becoming familiar with the sounds and syllables that make them. So if you’re up for a linguistic challenge, why not learn some verlan? Or if you want to learn some funny French words, check out this post.

*Hello brother, I’m angry. I had a crazy journey.

Watch how to understand verlan