French Nature Words

Instructor: Emily France

Emily has experience teaching English and French and has a master's degree in International Studies

In this lesson, we'll go over some basic nature vocabulary, including geographical features and bodies of water. We will then discuss plants and animals you might encounter in nature, and some weather-related vocabulary.

Introduction to French Nature Words

Nicolas is walking in the French campagne (countryside, cahm-pahn-yuh) on a warm, sunny afternoon. His outing starts with a hike up a big colline (hill, coh-leen), which is covered in fleurs (flowers, fluhr). Once over the hill, he passes a tall arbre (tree, ahr-bruh) hanging over un ruisseau (a stream, roo-ee-soh). He spots some oiseaux (birds, wah-zoh) and un écureuil (a squirrel, ay-koor-oy) in the branches of the tree too. Above him, he admires the fluffy, white nuages (clouds, noo-ahzh).

All of these features and many more are integral parts of the natural world. Being able to describe the characteristics of your surrounding environment in French will help you to better navigate and enjoy your own sojourns dans la nature (in nature, dahn lah nah-toor), whether you are in a city park or the French countryside like Nicolas.

Nicolas saw un arbre (a tree) near un ruisseau (a stream) during his walk dans la nature (in nature).

General Nature Terms and Geographical Features

To start off, let's go over some of the most common nature terms and geographical features you might encounter, since these will help you define the type of landscape you're in. Most of these features can be found in France and French-speaking parts of the world:

French English Pronunciation
la campagne countryside lah cahm-pahn-yuh
le paysage landscape/scenery luh pay-ee-sahzh
la terre ground/earth lah tayr
la colline hill lah coh-leen
la montagne mountain lah mohn-tahn-yuh
la falaise or
l'escarpement (m.)
cliff la fah-lehz
la vallée valley lah vah-lay
la plage beach lah plahzh
le désert desert luh day-zayr
le pré or
la prairie
meadow/pasture luh pray or
lah pray-ree
la jungle jungle lah juhn-gluh

Bodies of Water

When in nature, you're also likely to see some water, except if you're in le désert of course. Here are some terms for different bodies of water you might find:

French English Pronunciation
le lac lake luh lahk
l'étang (m.),
la mare, or
le bassin
pond/pool lay-tahng
lah mahr
luh bah-san
le fleuve or
la rivière
river luh fluhv
lah ree-vee-ayr
le ruisseau stream/creek/brook luh roo-ee-soh
la mer sea lah mayr
l'océan (m.) ocean loh-say-ahn
les marais or
le marécage
swamp/marshland lay mah-ray
luh mah-ray-kahzh

La plage (the beach) is close to la mer (the sea).

Common Plants and Animals

In addition to these geographic features, nature is teeming with life, including more species of plants and animals than one could possibly count. Here are a few of the plants and animals you would be most likely to see in the French countryside and many other parts of the world:


French English Pronunciation
la plante plant lah plahnt
l'arbre (m.) tree lahr-bruh
la fleur flower lah fluhr
la feuille leaf lah foy-uh
l'herbe (f.) grass layrb
l'arbuste (m.) or
le buisson
bush/shrub lahr-boost
luh boo-ee-sohn
la forêt forest lah foh-ray

You can see several fleurs (flowers) in this arbre (tree).


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