Knowing the frequency of a word in French

Hi everyone,

I have been learning french for sometime now. I am using resources like songs, books and youtube videos. I sometimes run into a problem when I try to learn some advanced vocabulary. The problem is that I learn a word and I do not really know if it is frequently used in the language or is it some ancient word that can make me sound like an actor in a medieval movie.

Does anyone know of a website or a tool that would allow me to know how frequent is a word used in day to day french conversations, and if it is used more for literature or maybe more in news etc..?

Thank you :)

January 12, 2019


I would think that if you're using the language regularly, you would be able to figure out whether a new word is used frequently or not depending simply on how often you see it. I believe a bigger concern is certain tenses and verb constructions which are used in writing but rarely or never in spoken French, like the passe simple, for example. Typically though, if you have a good French-English dictionary or an app where you an translate words immediately, it will tell you whether the use of a word is literary, archaic, etc. But I don't know of a resource that will give you like a percentage or something as to how common the word is used in everyday spoken French.

January 12, 2019

Modern textbooks etc are based on analyses of the frequency of words and phrases. This makes the courses comparable and gradable. I.e., if a textbook says that it will take you to level A2 according to the European Framework, then it is supposed to teach you the basic most common words and phrases.

So, if you follow a method, you can be quite sure that you are learning words that are really in use, and relevant.

In my opinion, this is sufficient -- any further knowledge about the frequency of individual words doesn't really help because in actual situations what you will need will be the right word or the means to describe what you mean (which will be provided by the textbook).

If you are discussing a particular topic with someone -- maths, Karate, any sports, cooking, craft, music, literature, any topic -- you will always need words that are not frequent.

Therefore, I rather focus on the topics that I'm interested in, and I pick up the words along the way.

Edit: When I maintained my first vocabulary database (on cardboard cards ;-)) for French, I found the word "clou de girofle" in a book I was reading, and I wondered if I should add this word to my index card collection. I added it half-heartedly, and learned it, but I thought that it was a waste of paper and brain cells ... Until, several years later, my then boyfriend and I had a visitor from France, and we were discussing our plans for lunch. I was so, so, so very proud that I was able to tell her that what we needed to buy was "clous de girofle" ! :-)

January 12, 2019

Here's a list of the top thousand:

I'm pretty sure that someone has created a course on Memrise

January 12, 2019

The Google Books Ngram Viewer works with French as well as English. I suppose it could be helpful to see how frequently any particular word occurs in literature from 1800 to 2000 but I suspect you're looking for something far more precise, not to mention focused upon conversational French.

January 14, 2019
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