A glossary of French abbreviations in everyday use

The English do it, the Americans do it, and unsurprisingly, so do the French – we all fling into our daily conversation plenty of abbreviations which, or course, are totally comprehensible to us. However, they are not so obvious to the stranger among us.

Here are some of the frequently used abbreviations in the French press or media or bureaucracy. Get these into your memory and you will find yourself no longer giving a blank look when they pop into conversation among your French contacts.

ANPE – French Job centre
ASSEDIC – Association pour l’emploi dans l’industrie et le commerce
BD – Bande Dessiné (eg Asterix book)
CB – Carte Bancaire (credit/debit card)
CAF – Caisse d’allocations familiales (child benefit office)
CP – Cours Preparatoire (first year of primary school)
CE1, CE1, CM1, CM2 – year groups of Primary school
CCI – Chamber of Commerce
CDD – Contrat à durée déterminé (short-term contract)
CDI – Contrat à duréé indéterminée (permanent contract)
CPAM – Caisse Primaire d’assurance Maladie (Social security health insurance)
CPE – Conseiller Principal d’Education
DEUG – (pronounced roughly dugh) Diplome d’études universitaires générales
DS – devoir surveillé – supervised homework
EDF – Electricité de France (national company)
FLE – Français Langue Etrangère (French as a foreign language – some teachers are qualified FLE teachers)
GDF – Gaz de France (equiv British Gas)
HLM – habitation à loyer modéré (council house)
IS – Impôt sur les sociétés

JO – Jeux Olympiques
KO – knock-out
OVNI – objet volant non identifié (UFO)
PS – Parti socialiste
PC – Parti communiste
PMI – small and medium industry
PME – small and medium business
RIB – relevé d’identité bancaire (a slip with your bank détails on, used to pay bills instead of a chèque, also to set up direct debits)
RMI – revenu minimum d’insertion
RPR – Rassemblement pour la République
RTT – Réduction du temps de travail
SAUR – Water company
SAMU – Service d’aide médicale d’urgence (ambulance service)
SDF – sans domicile fixe (homeless)
SMIC – salaire minimum interprofessionel de croissance (min. wage)
TD – Travaux dirigé
TIP – Titre interbancaire de paiement (a slip used when paying bills directly from your chosen account)
TGV – Train à Grande Vitesse
UDF – Union pour la démocratie française
URSSAF – Union pour le recrouvrement des cotisations de sécurité sociale et d’allocations familiales
VO – Version Originale (useful on cinema listings – this tells you it might be in your own language!)
VTT – Vélo tout terrain (mountain bike) (also VTTistes)
ZI – Zone Industrielle
ZAC – Zone d’aménagement concertée (local business zone)

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