Word of the day – paraphe

Example of a signature with a paraph

The word paraphe, which is also spelled parafe, came up last night at the French conversation group – we were looking for how to say initial (letter) in French and found this word, along with initiale.

The word also exists in English – paraph. Definitions include:

  • a flourish made after or below a signature, originally to prevent forgery
  • a flourish after a signature, originally to prevent forgery
  • a flourish or other embellishment made after a signature, either as idiosyncrasy or to protect against forgery


It comes from via French from the Medieval Latin paraphus, a variant of paragraphus (paragraph).

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Word of the day – paraphe

  1. Yenlit says:

    It is also known as a “trait de plume”.

  2. Christopher Miller says:

    I have often had to “parapher” a document. Not a full signature, just my initials.

  3. Tommy says:

    So what does someone say in France when they want to say “please initial here”? Do they use “parapher” or does this most generally refer to the flourish after a full signature?

    My sense in English is that “initials” refer to a person’s name (like Charles Dickens would be C.D.), while an “acronym” is more spoken and kind of a clever or easily recallable way to refer to an organization or more complex concept(like the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire is commonly called CERN), and abbreviation is a shortened written form (like Street becomes St. on paper). I’m curious if there are such a distinctions and nuances in other languages, like French.

  4. Amandine says:

    In France we usually use “parapher” for official documents like when you open a bank account or buy a house. You can also say “put your initials here” but it is less formal.

    We have the same use of “initials” and “acronym”. You can’t use an acronym for a person and you can’t use initials for an organization. We also use the word “abbreviation” in the same way, for example “Bd” for “boulevard” or “Imm” for “immeuble”.

  5. Stan says:

    Thank you for this. Before, I would simply have called it a flourish; now I have two specific terms for it!

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