Photo above : Baguettes
does ball trap
mean? What do the letters BTS
signify on a candidate's CV? Where is Le Bourget ?
Look no further, here are the answers to these questions, and to many
others concerning French words or names beginning with B.
Bac+2, Bac+4 etc): formula
used in job vacancy announcements and applicants' CVs, indicating the
number of years of higher education that the candidate has or
needs to have. Bac+3
means an undergraduate degree (i.e. three years of higher education
completed after the baccalauréat).
professional Baccalaureate, a semi-vocational school-leavers'
The classic school leaving certificate, taken by pupils
the end of secondary education. The traditional baccalauréat
the Baccalauréat Général; a more
recent innovation is the Baccalauréat
professionnel (see above). The general baccalauréat is
three "series"; letters, science, and
social studies. for more detail see education in France.
Badinter, Robert :
(b. 1928). French lawyer and human rights activist. Badinter was
appointed Minister of Justice in the first Mitterrand
administration, in 1981. He is best remembered in this context as the
man who successfully led the campaign for the abolition of capital
punishment in France; abolition of the death penalty was one of the
first major achievements of the Mitterrand presidency. From 1986 to
1995, Badinter was president of the Conseil
Constitutionnel, the highest court in the land.
brevet d’aptitude aux
a diploma generally required for anyone wishing to work as a sports or
outdoor pursuits assistant or instructor (an "animateur") in a holiday
camp for young people in France. It is a qualification designed for
non-professional and occasional employment, such as holiday jobs for
students. Though it is possible to find this type of holiday job offers
that do not require this diploma, it is not easy. BAFA courses are run
throughout France, and consist of a week's theory, two week's
paractical, and a week's specialisation.
classic French bread stick, normally weighing 250 grammes. With a hard
crusty outside, and a soft centre, a baguette should be eaten within at
most 24 hours of baking.
Many visitors to France have been perplexed, if not alarmed, by these
words, often seen on small hoardings in villages and rural France. Ball
trap is actually a popular rural French sport, and simply translates
into English as clay pigeon shooting.
Edouard (born 1929) :
Conservative politician, and Prime Minister of France from 1993 to
1995. Minister of the Economy in the first "Cohabitation" government of
during the first Mitterrand
presidency, he was appointed Prime Minister by Mitterrand at the start
of his second term in office. While Chirac incarnated the traditional
Gaullist wing of the conservative RPR party, Balladur was seen as more
modern, more libéral
and more European in
his outlook - but also rather aloof and patrician. In 1995, he ran
against Chirac for the presidency, and was at one time tipped as
favourite, but lost out in the first round. Divisions in the RPR
between the Chiraquiens and the Balladurians lasted for several years
after this, notably with the sidelining by Chirac of an up-and-coming
young minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.
under individual entries. Crédit
the French central bank, founded in 1800 by Napoleon. Nationalised in
1945, the Banque de France has operated independently from government
intervention since 1994. However, its vital role in the management of
the French economy was largely diminished in 2002, with the
disappearance of France's old national currency, the Franc,
and its replacement by the Euro.
A federation of regional cooperative banks, which is among the largest
banks in France. The Banque Populaire group also includes a number of
regional banks in France, and is joint owner of the Natixis investment
bank. Taken together, banks in the Banque Populaire group have nearly 8
Klaus : (1913
- 1991) Known during the Second World War as the "Butcher of Lyons",
Klaus Barbie was a notorious SS officer. As head of the Gestapo in
Lyons, he oversaw the torture, death and deportation of Jews
French Resistance fighters betwen 1942 and 1944. Most
was responsible for the torture and possible murder of Resistance
leader Jean Moulin, and for the deportation to Auschwitz of 44 children
from an orphanage at Izieu, a small town to the east of Lyon. After the
war, he fled to Latin America, eventually ending up in
In 1983 he was finally exradited to France, where he was put
trial in Lyon for crimes against humanity. Though he pleaded innocent,
Barbie was found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in
jail in 1991.
most famous French film actress of the 1950s and 1960s. Bardot was the
symbol of the sexual emancipation of the period, and the most famous
French woman of her generation. Known as BB (pronounced
meaning Baby), she was for many years the incarnation of the seductive
French woman, and appeared in some fifty films, before retiring from
the screen in 1973. Since then, she has become a militant
animal-rights activist, founding the Brigitte Bardot
in 1986. More recently, she has lost a certain amount of popular
respect, on acount of her sympathy for a number of extreme right-wing
causes. Nevertheless, in Febrary 2008, in an international survey, she
was voted the second most beautiful woman in the world, after Catherine
Prime Minister of France under president Valéry Giscard
d'Estaing, from 1976 to 1981. Barre, who began his career as
professor of economics in Paris, worked in the finance ministry and in
the European Commission in Brussels, before being chosen as Prime
Minister by Giscard. At the time, as an economist rather than a
politician, he was relatively unknown to the French public. He is the
only person in recent French history to have reached a top government
position without first rising through the ranks of a political party.
Bastille Day 14th
July. Le quatorze
The French national holiday, celebrating the fall of the Bastille
during the French Revolution, on 14th July 1789. This date was not
officially declared France's national day until almost a century later,
in 1880. The day is traditionally celebrated by a flamboyant military
parade along the Champs Elysées, in Paris, in the presence
President of the Republic.
- A concert hall in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Built in the
Chinese style in 1864, it started life as a café concert. Since
the 1970's it has been used as a concert venue, particularly for rock
concerts. On 13th November 2015 it was the scene of France's
worst terrorist atrocity, when the hall was stormed by a small commando
of Islamist militants, during a concert by the American rock group
Eagles of Death Metal. Ninety people were killed as the terrorists
sprayed the hall and surrounding area with gunfire. A year later the
Bataclan reopened with a concert by Sting.
- See Bardot,
One of the major cereal-growing areas of France, the breadbasket of the
nation. The Beauce is a large gently undulating area between
Paris and the Loire Valley, centred on the city of Chartres. It falls
largely in the department of Eure et Loire
- One of
the most famous cheeses
of the Savoy region of the French Alps: Beaufort belongs to the same
category of cheese as Comté and Swiss Gruyère,
though has a distinct
taste of its own
(Ministère des finances). "Bercy"
is the name given to the new French finance ministry
situated on Quai de Bercy, on the right bank of the Seine,
just beside the Gare de Lyon.
The name is also used to refer to the ministry itself, or to its
policies. The massive building, sometimes used to symbolize the size
and weight of the French civil service itself, is architecturally
impressive, straddling a main road and protruding over the waters of
the Seine at its southern end.
Bercy, palais omnisports
The principal indoor sports arena in Paris, located beside the river
Seine, just a short distance from the Gare de Lyon station. the arena
is also used as a venue for major rock concerts.
(1925 - 1993) : Socialist Prime Minister of France 1992-1993, at the
end of the second Mitterrand
presidency. Former metal worker and trade unionist, who bacame a close
advisor to Pierre Mendès Fance, and later private secretary
Mitterrand. In 1992, after the disastrous months of the Cresson
government, Beregovoy was appointed Prime Minister, in the hope that he
could revive the flagging fortunes of the Socialist Party. he failed,
and in 1993, the conservatives were returned to power. Just over a
month later, he was found dead with two gunshot wounds to the head. A
verdict of suicide was returned.
b 1974. Chief spokesman and virtual leader of the NPA, the Nouveau
Parti Anticapitaliste, a left-wing anti-capitalist party founded in
early 2009. Prior to the founding of the NPA, Besancenot had
leader of the LCR Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire party. Very
telegenic and a good speaker, Besançenot is a popular guest
and TV talk shows. He ran in the presidential elections in both 2002
and 2007, and each time achieved over 4% of the vote. Eschewing labels,
he simply describes himself as a "revolutionary", and can be described
as a classic example of the French intellectual left. Born into a
middle-class family, he achieved a postgraduate degree in modern
history from the University of Paris, but works as a postman.
One of France's well establised classical music festivals,
that takes place each year in September, in Besançon,
a historic city in eastern France, not far from Switzerland. The
festival is renowned for its bi-annual young conductors competition.
1922) According to Forbes magazine Liliane Bettencourt is the
richest woman in Europe. Only daughter of Eugène
founder of the L'Oreal
cosmetics empire, the world's largest cosmetics company, she
some 30% of the company's shares. In 2010, at the age of 87, she was at
the centre of a politico-financial media frenzy, involving allegations
of tax evasion and the illicit funding of President Sarkozy's UMP
Name used to describe French youth of north-African origin.
classic portrayal of France, defined with reference to the three
colours on the national flag - Bleu, blanc, rouge (blue, white,
red) - has been more recently paraphrased in youth
to express the multicultural origins of modern France, using the
expression Black Blanc Beur
Nationale. The French national
library, known to academics as the BN, was historically sited in
the First arrondissement of Paris.
As a deposit library, the BN receives a copy of every book and
periodical published in France. It also contains the most important
French collection of manuscripts and old printed books from before the
Revolution. Previously located in the Rue Richelieu, in the 1st
arondissement of central Paris, the library moved in 1996 to
custom-designed new buildings beside the Seine in the 13th
arondissement known as the Bibliothèque François
Mitterrand. The last
of France's "grands
of the 20th century, the building attracted criticism for
environmentally-poor design - in particular for the idea of storing
books in eighteen-story glass-clad skyscraper buildings.
Short form of biologique,
meaning organic. See AB - Agriculture biologique.
Kissing people on both cheeks (not on the lips) as a form of welcome,
or farewell, is a normal part of life in France. It is a well codified
social practice, but the format varies from region to region. Generally
speaking, in northern France people kiss twice, once on each cheek, in
Mediterranean France three times, and in the Paris area four times. It
is customary to start with the right cheek.
: Cold north-easterly wind that blows across central eastern France,
particularly during periods of anticylclonic high pressure in winter
time. La bise frequently veers south between the Alps and the Massif
Central, and is one of the sources of the Mistral
wind that blows down the Rhone corridor.
cunning bison, the mascot of French traffic-jam-avoidance schemes. See travel page.
traditional initiation rites that used to be popular in French
universities and some high schools. The practice of bizuthage began to
die out from the 1970's onwards, as many of the rites were seen as
being degrading, discriminatory, or even dangerous.
see Mont Blanc
literally "white stuff", the word is used both in cooking and in wine. Blanquette de veau
is a veal stew - a stew made with white meat - but Blanquette de Limoux
is reputedly France's original sparkling wine. It is said that the
technique for making sparkling wine was brought to Champagne from
Limoux, by monks in the sixteenth century.
the colour blue. The word can cause confusion for non-native speakers,
as it is used figuratively to refer to several completely different
things. a) Blue cheese (see Bleu d’Auvergne
b) a bruise, and c) work overalls. Les Bleus is the
nickname used to refer to the French national team in a number of
sports, notably football. Un bleu, in printing, is
a monochrome printer’s proof.
d'Auvergne: Popular blue cheese. See cheeses.
des Causses : Cheese
- An appellation contrôlée cheese which is
generally delicious and
strong tasting, without being sharp. A cows-milk cheese, sometimes
quite crumbly, manufactured in the same area as Roquefort and quite
see Bibliothèque Nationale
see Bibliothèque Nationale.
- Banque National de Paris . One
of the main high-street banks in France, now trading as
BNP-Parisbas. BNP-Paribas is a CAC-40
company, and the largest bank in the Eurozone in terms of stock-market
capitalisation, and in 2007 was the world's sixth-largest bank. As a
high-street bank in France, it has some 2,200 outlets.
1) In French children's language, a bo-bo or a bobo is
something that hurts, a bruise, cut or soemthing similar.
Bourgeois bohémien :
a middle-class intellectual who professes left-wing views, but lives a
lifestyle that largely contradicts this. The English equivalent might
be a champagne socialist or an armchair socialist.
de Boulogne, see Boulogne,
bois Wood at the edge of central Paris, the capital's
largest area of greenery
(1769-1821). Ruler of France from 1799 to 1815.
Napoleon came to power as a successful military commander in
wake of the French Revolution of 1798, initially as First Consul, then
as Emperor. A brilliant military and civil commander, Napoleon
established good part of the basis of the modern French state, with
its centralised power structure, law, and
Through military victories and alliances, he rapidly spread the power
of post-revolutionary France across Europe. However, like Hitler in the
twentieth century, he overstretched the capacities of his great army,
when he tried to conquer Russia. The retreat from Moscow in 1812 was
his first great defeat. It was followed however by his final undoing,
defeat by the British army at the batle of Waterloo in 1815. Captured
by the British, Napoleon was exiled first to Elba, from where he
escaped, then to the mid atlantic island of Saint Helena, where he died
in exile in 1821.
(1) A major port city in southwest France, on the Gironde, and capital
of the Aquitaine
(2) : Wine, and wine growing region. With Burgundy
and Champagne, the Bordeaux
region is one of the three most famous wine-producing
in France. Historically, its fame is at least in part due to the fact
that of these three big wine-growing areas, the Bordeaux vineyard is
the only one with immediate access to the sea, an advantage that has
enabled it to be France's major wine exporting region for many
In 1152, when queen Eleanor of Aquitaine married the English king Henry
II, the Aquitaine
economically integrated into the Anglo-Norman world, the Bordeaux
region becoming a major supplier of wine for England. This historic
wine exporting tradition helped Bordeaux to develop far stronger
commercial links in the ensuing centuries, firmly establishing Bordeaux
wines, often referred to generically in English as "clarets", on the
The Bordeaux vineyard is centered round the port city of Bordeaux ,
along the estuary of the Gironde, and the rivers Garonne and Dordogne.
It is a large vineyard, and the geo-specific appellation "Bordeaux"
covers an area stretching some 100 km both north-south and east-west.
the appellation contrôlée covers wines of medium
quality from all over
this region, many if not most of the top quality clarets grown in the
overall area benefit from more specific and distinctive area
appellations, such as Médoc , Graves or Saint Emilion, and
local appellations such as Pauillac, Graves and
other wine-growing areas, the Bordeaux area operates classifications of
many of its top wines, notably those from the Médoc and
vineyards. The best estates in these areas have the right to sell wines
designated as grand cru. Below the grand crus come
other high quality wines designated as cru bourgeois.
traditional type of sausage; there are two common varieties, boudin blanc and boudin noir.
The former is made from ground pork meat and offal, and is a
traditional and tasty starter for meals around Christmas. Boudin noir
is blood sausage. Scots would call them "white pudding" and "black
pudding", Scottish expressions where the word "pudding" is still used
in its original sense, i.e. a type of sausage. Etymologically, the word
boudin is the ancestor of "pudding".
bowls, see under Pétanque
de cru. A
dying breed, bouilleurs de cru are country-dwellers who still have the
once-inherited right to produce about 20 litres of spirits per
year, from fruit grown on their land, without paying excise
Transmission from father to son of the status of "bouilleur de cru" was
stopped in 1959. However all other owners of land that is officially
classified as an orchard or a vineyard have the right to produce, for
their own use, about 20 litres of spirits, at a special discounted rate
of excise duty, currently (2009) 7.5 € per litre of pure
both cases, the specific allowance is 10 litres of pure alcohol; the
actual volume of the liquors produced, typically in the form of Kirsch,
Calvados, Mirabelle, or Marc, will depend on the alcohol content.
France's major fishing port, located on the north coast of
in the department of Pas de Calais. Also a port for cross-Channel
ferries, though less used for this purpose than in the past.
bois de.The largest green space in the centre of
the Paris conurbation. Often referred to simply as "le
bois", this old tract of woodland, situated just outside the
city limits of central Paris
(Paris intra muros),
is the most famous of Parisian parks. Being situated on the western
edge of the city centre, le Bois has traditionally been popular with
the residents of Paris's more affluent and cultured western arondissements,
notably the 16th
, and features prominently in many works of French literature. The park
today covers an area of 846 hectares, three times the size of London's
The original Paris airport, located just to the north of the
capital, on the RER line between central Paris and CDG airport.
Passenger services operated out of this airport from 1919 to 1980.
Today, it is used only by executive jets and private planes. Le Bourget
airport is home to the French Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace
museum), and every other year (alternating with Farnborough, in the UK)
hosts the Paris international air show.
Lake Bourget, located in the French
is the biggest lake fully in Franc. It lies just north of
the department of Savoie (73). The biggest town on the shores of the
lake is the resort of Aix les Bains
1) Region in central France, capital Dijon. The Burgundy
is made up of four departments, the Yonne, the Nièvre, the
and the Saône et Loire. It is bordered by the regions of
Champagne, Franche Comté, Rhone-alpes and Auvergne. It is
agricultural, its most famous product being Burgundy wine. the
northeast of the region includes the Morvan hills, the southwest covers
the large flat expanse of the Saône valley. For further
2) the wine
from the vineyards of Burgundy. The vineyards of the Burgundy
region cover a narrow strip of land on the eastern slopes of
hills running south-east from the Burgundian Capital, Dijon. the heart
of the Burgundy wine growing region is the small city of Beaune, where
the autun wine sale in the historic "Hospices" building is one of the
high points of the wine year. Burgundy wines are classified on four
levels, the lowest being the generic "Bourgogne" appellation. Selected
areas of the Burgundy vineyard have their own classifications, such as
Côtes de Beaune. Within these, there are smaller areas,
groups of villages, reputed to produce higher quality wine, such as
Pernand Vergelesse or Aloxe Corton. Finally, at the top of the pyramid,
there are the estate wines, such as Clos Vougeot, with its mere 51
hectares of vineyard. Finding one’s way around Burgundy wines
sometimes a daunting task. The most famous brands are the reds, the
best of which can keep for a good 20 to 30 years. However, Burgundy
also produces some top quality, though not too distinctive, whites.
Paris stock exchange, located in the Palais Brogniart
in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
French MEP, elected to the European parliament on
of the French greens in June 2009. Highly mediatized and self-styled
leader of the Confédération Paysanne,
protest grouping of small farmers established as a backlash against the
accelerating fall in the number and economic viability of France's
small farms. Bové himself is a producer of Roquefort cheese,
the barren Causses in southern central France.
campaign in defence of the French small farmer developed into a more
general anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movement, with
being arrested twice and sentenced to prison firstly for leading a
group of protestors in demolishing a partly built McDonald's restaurant
in the town of Millau, and later for breaking into an agricultural
research facility and uprooting thousands of genetically modified
plants. When first sent to prison, Bové capitalised on the
driving himself to the jail at the head of a procession of tractors,
which received massive media coverage. To avoid a repeat of this,
police arrested him a second time in 2003 with a spectacular dawn raid
on his farmhouse, carrying Bové off to jail in a helicopter.
avoiding a second Bové media circus, the means employed in
were seriously criticised throughout the media. Since the mid 1990's,
Bové has also been present at most major international
social forums - including Puerto Alegre and Seattle - leading to
accusations that he is not really the typical small farmer he claims to
1921 - 1981. Probably the greatest traditional French singer
(chansonnier) of the mid twentieth century. Brassens, who came from a
working-class background, sang notably of Paris life, the
and the low, his songs being poems, sung to a distinctive but simple
la: One of
the most important wetlands in France, and a regional nature park (Parc naturel régional),
La Brenne is an inland area of lakes and streams in the Indre
department of central France. Over 250 different types of bird nest in
this area, and it is an important point on north-south migration
area to the north of Lyon, characterised by a large number of lakes
(les dombes) . The area is famed for its birdlife, and for its frogs.
Biggest town of the Finistere department, on the
Atlantic coast of Brittany,
Brest is a major French naval base and France's most westerly city. The
port is home to France's Atlantic fleet, and principal naval academy.
the Brittany region of France, situated in the north west of the
country. Capital city Rennes. Brittany is bordered in the east by
Normandy, and in the southeast by the Pays de la Loire. It consists of
four departments, Côtes d'Armor in the north,
Finistère in the west,
Morbihan in the south, and Ille et Vilaine in the east. Its main
activities are agriculture (vegetables, dairy products) and tourism.
Historically, the Brittany province of France was larger than today's
Brittany region, and also included land down to the river Loire,
including the city of Nantes, which was once the capital, but now no
longer in the region. For more information click for guide to Brittany .
a) a patent.
b) the nearest French equivalent to GCSE exams, an exam taken
by pupils at the end of middle school (collège).
details see article secondary
education in France .
There are two sorts of Brie, Brie de Meaux and Brie
de Melun, both appellation
cheeses named after two nearby towns in the the country some fifty
miles south east of Paris. Brie comes as a thin round cheese about 20
inches in diameter, with a soft white crust. This crust is eaten, not
cut off. Brie is a very mild creamy cheese that should appeal
anyone who does not enjoy strong tasting cheese..
sale, second-hand sales. Unlike vide-greniers,
which are essentially for private individuals, brocantes are
generally reserved for professionals, such as antique dealers or
junk-shops. The biggest brocante
in France, with some 10,000 sellers, takes place each year during the
first weekend in September, in Lille. This traditional event is open to
professionals and individual sellers.
Palais The building in central Paris which is home to the Paris stock
exchange, known as La Bourse. The building owes its name to the
architect who designed it.
Technicien supérieur, a two-year higher
diploma. See Higher
education in France
An official government publication. The best-known of the various
Bulletins Officiels, often just referred to as the BO, is the Bulletin
of the Ministry of Education (B.O.E.N.). Bulletins officiels publish
official information and instructions, regarding the workings of areas
of the public sector, the application of decrees and laws
the sector concerned, lists of vacancies and high-level appointments.
Burgundy: see Bourgogne, above.
Something missing? If you cannot find a word,
phrase or name that you believe we ought to have included in this
Dictionary of France, please contact About-France.com. Dictionary
editors will consider your request, and if appropriate include a
definition of the missing term at the next update.