Five French Sayings You’ll Hear in New Orleans

A man riding a bicycle in a street near La Galerie Hotel


New Orleans has an incredibly culturally rich history. The New Orleans area was claimed for the French in the late 1600s and officially became La Nouvelle-Orleans in 1718 when it was founded by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. 


It became the capital of the French’s Louisiana colony in 1723, but was given to the Spanish that same year and remained in the hands of the Spanish for almost 100 years. In 1800, the Spaniards gave the Louisiana colony back to France, but it was soon sold to the United States by Napoleon. 


Despite changing hands so many times, French culture deeply permeates Louisiana and New Orleans. It's so prevalent that there are many words you're likely to hear in New Orleans today that have French roots. 


However, today, much of what you might hear that sounds French is actually known as Cajun-French. Here's a look at the five most popular French words and sayings you'll hear while exploring NOLA.

Mardi Gras

If you’re visiting New Orleans, chances are you’ve heard of Mardi Gras, or, in English, Fat Tuesday. However, Mardi Gras celebrations last much longer than a day, extending practically for months before the actual day arrives. Expect revelry, beads, and lots of liquor during the festive Carnival Season in NOLA. 


Although not actually a French word, the term “lagniappe” is Cajun-French inspired and is something you’ll hear quite often down in New Orleans. Lagniappe means a little something extra, usually a gift or something free. When the term first rose to prominence, it referred to a gift that would accompany the purchase of groceries or other retail items as a thank you. 

Laissez les bon temps rouler

This Cajun-French word directly translates to “let the good times roll.” Most often, you’ll hear this word around Mardi Gras time and you’ll definitely find it on everything from t-shirts to cutting boards. It’s essentially a catch-all term that encourages revelry and having a good time. 

Fais do-do 

This is a Cajun-French term that essentially means “to go to sleep,” but a fais do-do has little to do with sleeping. This is the term for a Cajun dance party. The expression is thought to have arisen as a result of adults putting their children to bed and then heading out to party and dance afterwards while they were asleep, hence the “do-do” part of the phrase. 


Not to be confused with the singing legend, “cher” is a term of endearment used by Cajun and Creole French New Orleanians. It is thought to have originated from the French term “mon cheri” meaning “my prize” or “my treasure.”


New Orleans has a language all its own, but don’t get too tongue-tied trying to repeat some of the local sayings. The locals are kind enough to help you out if you haven’t brushed up on your Cajun-French in a while. 


No matter what kind of French-inspired words you hear around the city, make sure to let the good times roll during any visit to New Orleans. And to make your visit complete, rest your head in style at the charming La Galerie French Quarter hotel.