These French words from Algerian Arabic

These French words from Algerian Arabic

“Bled”, “maboul”, “clebs”… Mainly used in slang, these terms appeared in the French language through Algerian Arabic. do you know them?

Arabic is one of the main languages ​​of the Semitic group. The Muslim conquest of the Maghreb brought Arabic, originally used in the Arabian Peninsula, to northern Africa, where it adapted. Classical Arabic then saw the birth of a dialectal Arabic, the “darija”, we read in Introduction to Maghrebi Arabic (The Harmattan), by Michel Quitout.

This vehicular language, in which there are many variations between countries, is mainly used by the regional population. In Algeria, in particular, where historical relations with France have favored linguistic exchanges on both sides of the Mediterranean. Do you know these words that French borrowed from Algerian Arabic?


During the 19th century, in France, a barracks slang developed. Some words were thus brought by soldiers who served overseas. Among them, the word “bled”, from the Algerian Arabic “blad” (“terrain, country”) was used after the First World War to qualify the “open countryside, uninhabited land”, according to the Treasure of the French language. In military slang, a “bled” is a vacant lot separating two enemy trenches. In popular parlance, it is a small isolated town, without resources. “We must not have much fun in your town”says the character of Lulu Doumer in Far from Rueil (1944) by Raymond Queneau.

Rather than “crazy”, “crazy” or “unconscious”, some like to call a person in an intense psychological state of disorder “crazy”. The term comes from the Arabic language of Algeria. Originally, ‘mabbhul’ means ‘idiot’. As Jean Pruvost explains in Our ancestors the Arabs (JC Lattès) it was in 1830 that the word transited and took “a certain rise in the French language, immortalized in poetry, to the point of forgetting its origin”.

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