The French term for “French fries”: A linguistic comparison between British “chips” and other alternatives

When it comes to the world of food, few items are as universally recognized and loved as the humble French fry. However, the name for this popular side dish can vary greatly depending on where in the world you are. In the United States, they’re known as “French fries”, while in the United Kingdom, they’re called “chips”. But what about in France? Do the French call them “French fries”? Is the French term for that food better translated as the British term for “chips” or is it some other term entirely? Let’s delve into the linguistic comparison between these terms and explore the fascinating world of food nomenclature.

The French Term for “French Fries”

In France, what we know as “French fries” in the United States are referred to as “frites”. This term is derived from the French verb “frire”, which means “to fry”. So, in a literal sense, “frites” translates to “fried” in English. However, in the context of food, “frites” are understood to be thin, fried potato strips, much like the American “French fries”.

British “Chips” vs French “Frites”

While the British term for “French fries” is “chips”, it’s important to note that British “chips” are not exactly the same as French “frites”. British “chips” are typically thicker and less crispy than their French counterparts. In fact, what Americans call “chips”, the British refer to as “crisps”. This is because in British English, “chip” refers to a piece of food that has been cut into a specific shape and then cooked, not necessarily a thin, crispy snack.

Other Alternatives

Aside from “frites” and “chips”, there are several other terms used around the world to refer to “French fries”. For instance, in Australia, they’re often called “hot chips”. In South Africa, they’re known as “slap chips”, which are usually thicker and softer. In Spain, they’re referred to as “patatas fritas”, which literally translates to “fried potatoes”.


So, to answer the original question, the French do not call them “French fries”. Instead, they use the term “frites”. While this could be translated as the British term for “chips”, it’s not a perfect match due to the differences in the actual food items. As with many things in language and culture, the exact translation can vary and may not always perfectly capture the original meaning. But no matter what you call them, one thing is clear: these fried potato strips are a beloved food item around the world.