Petit chenapan!

Last night at the French conversation group we were discussing how to say rascal in French, because one of the beers being served last night is called rascal. I found quite a few possible translations, each of which has slightly different meanings:

  • vaurien = good-for-nothing, scoundrel; (to child) petit vaurien ! = you little devil!
  • fripon = [n] rogue; [adj] mischievous, roguish; (to child) petit fripon ! = you little scamp/rogue!
  • polisson = [adj] mischievous, cheeky; saucy, naughty – une chanson polissonne = a racy saucy song; [n] little devil / rogue / scamp
  • gredin = rascal, rogue
  • maraud = rascal, rapscallion
  • chenapan = rascal, rogue, scoundrel (humourous)
  • bélître = rascal; dandy
  • canaille = [adj] roguish; coarse, vulgar; [n] scoundrel, crook – petite canaille ! = you little devil / rascal!

Sources: Larousse & Reverso.

The English word rascal, which I particularly like the sound of, comes from the Anglo-Norman word rascaile, from the Middle French rascaille (rabble, common people), possibly from the unattested verb *rasquer (to scrape).

Children are often the ones called rascals or little rascals in English. Is it the same in other languages, if they have similar words?

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

4 Responses to Petit chenapan!

  1. phanmo says:

    “Racaille” is still very commonly used in French, although it’s devoid of any cuteness. It’s the term used generally for petty criminals, usually from “les cités”” (the projects).
    The french Wikipedia entry for the word ( is quite interesting.

  2. michel147 says:

    “Fripon, maraud, belître” are completely out of use. “Racaille” is to be avoided at all costs being felt as xenophobic. The other words can be used to express fondness too.
    “Coquin” is another possibility in, for example, “petit coquin, si je t’attrape, … tu vas voir !” (then the child roars with laughter and jumps onto the sofa).

  3. Chris Waugh says:

    I seem to remember “racaille” being used by a French president to describe rioters in les cités a few years back. From memory, his comment was not well received.

  4. Prussia says:

    I do love rapscallion too though!
    Definitely need to bring that back into vogue.

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