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false friends french legal translation

French Legal Translation and False Friends

false friends french legal translation

By Maeva Cifuentes

In French legal translation, it is paramount to use terminology accurately. Confusing false friends is a mistake neither you nor your client can afford. A professional legal translator will be aware of the nuances. Although there is no substitute for studying both systems and thoroughly understanding their respective terminologies, it’s good to have an idea of some betraying words to watch out for.

Some of these words function as cognates in layman English, which makes them even trickier when drafting legal texts. Often the cognates that work plain English have no meaning in legal English. Double check all words that may look like your friends!


French English
Action Share in a company, while in legal English ‘action’ means a lawsuit.
Acte Legal files, records, and dossiers.
(société) Anonyme Publicly held company. Does not mean an anonymous company.
Associé Partner (in a law firm)
Réviseur Auditor
Audience Hearing, pleading in court
Bail Real estate lease
Cabinet Law firm
État civil A person’s vital statistics
Compétence Subject-matter jurisdiction
Expertise Valuation
Ignore Not being aware of
Réalise Carry out, effectuate
Rédaction Write, prepare, draft
Retraite Retirement
Revendication Claim
Sensible Sensitive
Société Company
Syndicat Labor union
Transaction Settlement of a dispute
Habilitation Authorization
Homologation Ratification
Majoration Surcharge
Mensuel Monthly


Do you know any other false friends in Legal French and English?

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