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Satiate Your Thirst! Water in French and Its Many Quenching Forms

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water in french

France is famous for its water.

Évian. Perrier. Volvic.

Trendy. Bubbly.

The stuff of life.

But there’s more to water in French than the vogue of bottled water.

Consider La Côte d’Azur (French Riviera).

The Loire. The Seine.

The famous fountains of Versailles.

The healing eaux thermales (thermal springs) of towns like Vichy and Évian-les-Bains.

Water is all around us, and life wouldn’t be possible without it.

Since it’s such an essential, let’s explore how to talk about water in French.

Get in the Flow with French Water Words

Start moving gently down the stream of French water vocabulary with these varied learning resources.

A shower of videos

Whether it’s cooking videos, French films or TED talks, French-language media is saturated with water-related words.

Watch a flood of multimedia to see and hear how French speakers talk about water in everyday life.

Talk about the weather and more

Practice your French water vocabulary while having conversations en français (in French). Water words can become second nature to you during the give-and-take of a tête-à-tête (face-to-face).

Start by discussing the weather, then roll down the conversational river to other water-related topics.

If you’re too shy to speak aloud, or you’d prefer to practice the written language, give French chatrooms a shot.

A sprinkle of poetry

These heartfelt and fanciful verses evoke the myriad emotions that water can express.

  • Guillaume Apollinaire: “Le Pont Mirabeau” (“The Mirabeau Bridge”)

    Apollinaire paints a picture of pain and joy, flowing like the waters of the Seine under the Mirabeau Bridge in Paris.
  • Paul Verlaine: “Il pleut dans mon cœur” (“It’s Raining in My Heart”)

    The rain is a pain in the poet’s heart, yet it’s also a soothing melody falling on the ground and roofs outside.
  • The Charles d’Orléans“Le temps a laissé son manteau” (“The Season Removed Its Coat”)

    This poem features rivers, fountains, streams and rain.

This YouTube video from Imaginfinity combines French water poetry with fantastic footage of rivers, lakes and other waterscapes in Canada and France.

Here’s a deluge of water-related words—describing temperature, wetness, drinking water, wet weather and bodies of water.

And, we’ll tie it all up in a bow with un arc-au-ciel (a rainbow) of French water idioms.

How to say “water” in French

Before we get into all the different water-related words, here’s how to say just plain water:

eau — water

But wait, that’s just three vowels. How do you even say that?

You can hear how to pronounce the word eau on Forvo or check out this excellent video from Alexa.

La température d’eau (Water temperature)

These water descriptors will take you from freezing to tepid to scalding.

gelée — freezing

glacée — frigid, ice-cold

glaciale — icy, glacially cold

tiède — tepid, lukewarm

à température ambiante — room temperature

A related expression, servir chambré, means to serve at room temperature. It can be used to refer to wine and food. A word for ‘‘room,’’ chambre, is part of the past participle used here.

chaude — warm

très chaude — hot

frémissante — simmering

bouillante — boiling

brûlant— scalding

Practice resource: French language recipes

The Recettes website and the Cuisine (cooking) section of Le Journal des femmes (Ladies’ Journal) both have an extensive recipe collection.

The Recettes recipes are written fairly simply and clearly. Le Journal illustrates each ingredient with a photograph—but the recipe texts are much more challenging.

L’eau potable (Drinking water)

French bottled water is just about as iconic as la tour Eiffel (the Eiffel Tower) and the béret. With this fluid vocabulary, you can be fluent in the most basic and necessary beverage of all.

l’eau plate — still water

l’eau pétillante — fizzy/sparkling water

l’eau de Seltz — Seltzer water

l’eau minérale — mineral water

l’eau de source — spring water

l’eau purifiée — purified drinking water

Also called l’eau épurée.

l’eau distillée — distilled water

l’eau en bouteille — bottled water

l’eau courante — running water

l’eau du robinet — tap water

l’eau trouble — cloudy water

Practice Resources: Les supermarchés et les restaurants (Supermarkets and restaurants)

Linger in the bottled water aisle and read the labels on French brands, trying to identify l’eau minérale (mineral water), l’eau de source (spring water) and other French-language ways to wet your whistle.

If you have a nearby bistro or café with French-speaking waitstaff, challenge yourself to request your verre d’eau (glass of water) in French, describing the exact variety you desire.

Le temps pluvieux (Wet weather)

Pack your poncho and prepare to ride the rapids of French wet weather terms.

la brume — mist

la bruine — drizzle

l’averse — rain shower

la chute de pluie — rainfall

La chute de pluie is a single, local instance of rainfall. If you were measuring cumulative rainfall, you’d say les précipitations.

les fortes pluies — heavy rainfall

le déluge — deluge

la pluie torrentielle — torrential downpour

une inondation — flood

un orage — thunderstorm

la pluie verglaçante — freezing rain

la neige fondue — sleet

Literally, ‘‘melted snow.’’

Practice Resources: La météo (Weather forecasts)

Skip your local news and use these websites to get a forecast in French.

  • The Météo Monde (World Weather) section on the Météo France (French Weather) website can tell you if your town is expecting la pluie (rain) or just la bruine (drizzle). The Éducation (Education) pages are chock-full of information about wet weather and other meteorological phenomena.
  • The video-rich France Info TV weather site will help you practice your auditory comprehension of French precipitation events comme des orages et des inondations (like thunderstorms and floods). The visuals provide highly detailed context clues.
  • For forecasts with a Québecois flair, float on over to the Canadian government’s official weather site.

Les degrés d’humidité (Degrees of wetness)

Master a scale for measuring degrees of wetness—especially in the context of food, clothing and nature.

humide — damp, moist

trempé(e) — soggy (clothes), drenched, soaked

detrempé(e) — soggy (ground), waterlogged, sodden

Interestingly, a tear-soaked Kleenex would be described as détrempé—the same sort of ‘‘soggy’’ as the rain-soaked ground.

mou (molle) — soggy (breakfast cereal, chips or bread)

This is used for commenting about foods that are generally crisp, firm or crunchy, but which have, sadly, become soggy.

The masculine and feminine forms of this adjective share the same structure as fou/folle (crazy).

This one doesn’t translate from the French as “soggy” so much as ‘‘limp,’’ ‘‘flabby,’’ ‘‘feeble’’ ‘‘spineless’’ or ‘‘soft.’’ The noun form, un mou, is a moniker for a wimp.

mouillé(e) — wet

Être tout mouillé means ‘‘to be all wet’’ or ‘‘to be wet through.’’

When used with le sourire (smile) or le regard (look), it means ‘‘tearful.’’ Le sourire mouillé might be translated as ‘‘a watery smile,’’ implying that the person is crying or near tears.

saturé(e) — saturated

Practice Resources: Des étiquettes de lessive (Garment care instructions)

As you’re doing your laundry, look for the French-language instructions for washing your garments properly. They’ll tell you whether you can laver à l’eau froide (wash in cold water), à l’eau tiède (in cool water) or à l’eau chaude (in warm water).

If you use un détachant à lessive (laundry stain remover), see if there’s a French section on the label to tell you whether you should laver dans l’eau la plus chaude (wash in the hottest water).

Les masses d’eau (Bodies of water)

From underground water to the largest ocean, you’ll do swimmingly with these words describing bodies of water.

la nappe phréatique — groundwater; water table

la flaque — puddle, pool, spill

This wouldn’t be the type of pool you’d use to play Marco Polo!

la piscine — swimming pool

La piscine is similar to the English word ‘‘Pisces,’’ which is a fishy astrological sign. Picture a fish doing a doggy paddle in a swimming pool.

le lac — lake

le fleuve — large river

la rivière — somewhat small, narrow or shallow river

la mer — sea

le bras de mer — inlet

This is ‘‘the arm of the sea.’’ (Not to be confused with La Manche (the Sleeve), also known as the English Channel.)

le ruisseau — stream, brook or creek

le détroit — strait

Yep, it’s exactly like the city in Michigan, only with an accent aigu (acute accent).

un étang — pond

un océan — ocean

le flot — tide

The plural, les flots, refers to waves on the ocean.

Practice resource: Navigate French waterways

Sail down les Voies navigables de France (the navigable French waterways) website to explore content about watercraft-accessible bodies of water.

Learn in-depth about les fleuves (large rivers), les lacs (lakes) and les mers (seas), as well as the ships that cruise them.

Des verbes qui concernent l’eau (Water-related verbs)

This collection of verbs will help you talk about wet weather and water-related activities such as gardening or doing laundry.

arroser — to water plants

Think about watering a small rose garden at home.

Arroser au jet means “to hose something off or down.”

irriguer — to irrigate

Unlike arroser, this would be more like the irrigation on a farm.

pleurer — to cry; to weep

larmoyer — to get teary-eyed, to tear up, to snivel; to get watery eyes; to get maudlin

This word can mean a range of different things. It’s often about being emotional and weepy but can also refer to eyes made watery by allergies.

pleuvoir — to rain

Pleuvoir (to rain) can easily be mixed up with pleurer (to cry), although their conjugations are different.

bruiner — to drizzle

mouiller (quelque chose ou quelqu’un) — to get (something or someone) wet

humecter — to dampen (a rag or cloth)

tremper — to soak

Tremper le linge (soak the laundry) to loosen stubborn stains before washing.

saturer — to saturate

Practice resources: Verb tables and French conjugation exercises

Each fluid-filled verb above is linked to its very own verb table, so you can put each of these words into action.

Note that bruiner (to drizzle) and pleuvoir (to rain) only conjugate in the third person masculine singular, since they’re verbs used to describe the weather.

With the exception of pleuvoir (to rain), and the stem-changing verb larmoyer (to get teary-eyed), the French water verbs in the above list follow the regular –er verb conjugation patterns. This is great news because it means you can learn their conjugation patterns by practicing with any regular –er verb.

Check out these resources for practicing your French verb conjugation:

Hosted by a dapper grenouille (frog), the Conjuguemos website offers French conjugation practice through graded exercises, as well as crossword puzzles, word searches, flashcards and memory match games. Choose the present-tense –er verbs specifically, or mix it up for more of a challenge: You can practice all French tenses and moods at once, or narrow it down to specific moods, tenses or verb groups.

For no-frills drills, try the Français interactif (Interactive French) website from the University of Texas at Austin. This collegiate collection of conjugation exercises will put you through your paces! Choose from different verb families and verb tense conjugations.

Des expressions impliquant de l’eau (Expressions Involving Water)

Fill your linguistic well with these poetic water-soluble metaphors.

pleuvoir des cordes — to rain heavily

This phrase is the French equivalent of ‘‘it’s raining cats and dogs.’’

couper d’eau — To cut with water; to water down; to dilute

Un coup d’eau, on the other hand, means a ‘‘gulp of water.’’

avoir de l’eau dans le gaz — things aren’t going well

Literally meaning “to have water in the gas,” this is an example of an idiomatic avoir expression.

porter l’eau à la rivière — to perform a futile task

In English, we might say something like ‘‘to carry coals to Newcastle.’’

tomber à l’eau — to go by the wayside; to be nixed

mettre à l’eau — to launch

This is often used in a nautical context.

mouiller l’ancre — to drop anchor

Rather than focusing on the action of dropping the anchor, this refers to it getting wet.

être mouillé dans un scandale — to get mixed up in a scandal

avoir l’eau à la bouche — to have one’s mouth water

naviguer en eaux troubles — to fall in with a bad crowd

Nager (to swim) can be used in this expression, instead of naviguer.

un flot d’injures — a torrent of abuse

être à flot — to be on an even keel (financially)

à l’eau de rose — overly sentimental

se mettre à l’eau — to stay sober

Also means “to go swimming,” or “to put oneself in water.”

arroser quelqu’un de vin — to top off someone’s wine

arroser quelqu’un avec des pots-de-vin — to “water” someone with a bribe; to grease someone’s palm

être en eau — to be in over one’s head; to be covered or bathed in sweat

Practice resources: French multimedia

Take a deep dive into French pop culture with romans (novels), poésie (poetry) and films (movies).

As you’re reading or watching, keep your eyes or ears peeled for scintillating water-based expressions, such as the ones listed above.


Now that you have this pool of French water words, you can glide confidently through water-related content and conversations in French.

Bon voyage! (Have a good trip!)

Michelle Baumgartner is a language nerd who has formally studied seven languages and informally dabbled in at least three others. In addition to geeking out over slender vowels, interrogative particles and phonemes, Michelle is a freelance content writer and education blogger. Find out more at StellaWriting.com.

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