In her review of Vanderperren, Dictionnaire des faux amis/Wörterbuch der faux amis. Allemand-francais/Deutch-Französisch, Paris, 1994, published in Romanistiches Jahrbuch, vol. 46, issue 1, the reviewer Claudia Polzin mentions on p. 207

"französierende(n) Bildungen", d.h. "bizarre(n) Wörter(n) deutscher Prägung, die wie französische Wörter aussehen, aber keine sind".

She quotes here the introduction to the dictionary itself, which presumably contains quite a few examples of such words. Unfortunately, off hand I can't think of any examples myself, and I have not been able to consult the dictionary, which does not seem to be freely available online.

So I would like to ask: are there examples of German words that look like French ones (e.g. contain a French root or a suffix) but have no analogues in French (and in particular, are not loanwords)?



3 Answers 3


A word like that would be called a "Scheingallizismus". "Gallizismen" are loan words from French, like for example "Anglizismen" are loan words from English. Words that seem to originate from the respective language but actually don't (anymore) are called "Schein-" (roughly meaning "pseudo"), in our case "Scheinanglizismus" or "Scheingallizismus".

An often cited Scheinanglizismus is the German "Handy" for "cell phone". But according to Wikipedia there are also Scheingallizsmen. The article doesn't seem to have much proof, but some of the examples noted there seem reasonable enough to me:

  • Blamage (would be something like « honte » in French)
  • Friseur ( « coiffeur » )
  • Takelage ( « gréement » )
  • Staffage ( « décoration » )
  • Gardine ( « rideau » )

It varies to what degree the (pseudo-) French pronunciation is still used in German. With "Blamage", for example, the final "e" may or may not be pronounced. But I don't remember ever hearing Gardin' ;)

  • It should be noted that it's a bit open to interpretation whether you consider various of these words Scheingallizismen (assuming the entire word is French) or rather something like nouns built by appending a French rather than a German noun ending to a German word. Sep 10, 2018 at 4:47
  • @O.R.Mapper I don't want to start a lengthy discussion, but wouldn't "nouns built by appending a French rather than a German noun ending to a German word" be Scheingallizismen as well? The French noun ending would make the words "look French" even though they're not, which is basically the point of the category. Sep 10, 2018 at 11:35
  • It's true the German root is often not as readily recognizable in Scheingallizsmen as in Scheinanglizismen. I presume, however, that the neologism "Beleidigtness" does not count as a "Scheinanglizismus" despite the English ending attached to the German word. IMO, the same applies with respect to French endings attached to German word/word parts. Sep 12, 2018 at 21:03

The possibly most prominent pseudo-French word in German is Friseur (hairdresser, the actual French word being coiffeur). However, according to the German Wikipedia Friseur the word did exist in French, but was never very popular and is nowadays extinct.


Probably the best word in such a list has be Politesse

kommunale Angestellte, die die Einhaltung der Parkvorschriften überwacht

Describing a female traffic warden.

But looking into etymology we get only the French:

Etymologie Politesse1 f. ‘Höflichkeit, Galanterie’, Übernahme (17. Jh.) von gleichbed. frz. politesse, zu frz. poli Adj. ‘geglättet, poliert, kultiviert, höflich’, polir Vb. ‘glänzend machen’ (s. ↗polieren).

In other words: looks like French, is also a word in French, but has no direct connection to French, other than being of diametrically opposite content.

  • 1
    "diametrically opposite content" - you made my day! :-)
    – IQV
    Sep 11, 2018 at 5:34

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