French Language Blog

French Vocabulary – Anatomy Posted by on Jun 16, 2020 in Language, Vocabulary

Here on the Transparent Language French Blog we’ve covered the parts of the body and (more than once) the parts of the face. One thing we’ve never done (at least as far as I can tell) is gone inside. So this week we turn to … les parties du corps

Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels 

Inside Edition

Les organes internes / Internal organs

De la tête au pieds (from head to toes) what we see on the outside is only part of what makes people, people. So let’s look a little deeper.

Le cerveau / la cervelle

In French there are two words for brain. Well, ok, sort of. One, le cerveau, does translate as the brain and generally refers to the physical brain inside your crâne (skull).

The other, la cervelle, I would actually translate as brains and it is used both in the culinary sense (on mange de la cervelle / one eats brains … well, I don’t! but some people do 😉 … ) and in the metaphysical sense of ‘smarts’ (il n’a rien dans la cervelle / He’s got nothing in his brain … he’s not very smart).

Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

Le cœur

The French term for heart, like the English, can have many meanings. It refers:

  • to the literal cœur which keeps us alive en faisant circuler le sang dans nos veines (by pumping blood through our veins),
  • to a loved one (mon cœur, mon amour / my heart, my love),
  • and to the heart of a place (au cœur des Alpes / In the heart of the Alps … ) or a topic (Venons-en au cœur du sujet / Let’s move on to the heart of the matter … ).
Speaking of hearts … cœur is also the name of the card suit hearts en français. The other couleurs ou enseignes (suits or signs) are carreau (diamond, lit. tile, or pane (as in pane of glass)), trèfle (clubs, lit. clover/trefoil), and pique (spades, lit. pike/spear).

Les poumons

On respire avec les poumons. / We breathe with our lungs.

Le foie

Boire trop d’alcool est mauvais pour le foie. / Drinking too much alchool is bad for the liver. Unlike the brains, si vous mangez du foie (if you eat liver) it’s the same word (and while many people have decided against it, I must say that I do love foie gras).

Les reins

Que peut-on dire des reins ? (What can you say about kidneys?)

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

Les os

Le crâne et les autres os du corps constituent le squelette (The skull and other bones of the body make up the skeleton). Which just like in English, is what holds our bodies up … and can faire peur lors de Halloween (cause fright at Halloween).

Les muscles

Ok, technically, at least according to mes amis médecins (my doctor friends) ce sont les muscles qui nous permettent de tenir debout (it is our muscles that allow us to stay upright!) It’s also our muscles that enable us to faire du sport.

Pro Tip : When you come across a new word in French, you can of course always look it up in the dictionary. The fastest way to clear up any misunderstanding might be to use a translation dictionary. But there are better ideas! See if you can decipher the meaning by looking the word up in un dictionnaire de la langue française. Another great trick is to google the word using the Google Images function … sometimes just seeing a picture will help you solve the mystery.
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.