Word of the Week: ‘cornichon’

Word of the Week:

This week, we’ve got ‘cornichon’ coming up. 

How to pronounce it:


What it means in English:

You’ll most likely see it written on restaurant menus as a tasty burger accompaniment, along with tomatoes and lettuce. Any guesses yet? 

It is, of course, the gherkin. (Sorry if I’ve offended the sensibilities of anyone who feels that a gherkin has no place near a burger or near any food anywhere ever.)

Interestingly, ‘cornichon’ is also old-fashioned French slang for ‘idiot’ (or ‘nincompoop’, if you will. Had to get one of my favourite English words in there too). 

The Gherkin in London looking lovely on the right hand side.

Where does it come from?

A description on Wiktionary in French here says that the humble ‘cornichon’ gets its name from the fact that it looks like one half of a pair of devil’s horns which are, in French, ‘cornes’. 

Apparently, ‘cornichon’ then became used as an insult because it sounds similar to the expression ‘porter des cornes’ (literally, ‘to wear horns’). 

Horns have symbolically been associated with men who have been cheated on, which is apparently because they look like stags’ antlers (stags give their mates up to their rivals when they have been defeated by them). 

How to use it in a sentence:

‘Est-ce que vous voulez des cornichons avec votre hamburger?’ (The correct answer is, of course, always, ‘Yes. ALL the gherkins.’)

English translation:

‘Would you like some gherkins with your burger?’ 

A burger just as it should be, with plenty of gherkins.

Similar words:


Un idiot = Idiot                                   

Un imbécile = Imbecile                  

Une dinde = Idiot/silly goose (literally, ‘a turkey’)                       

Une andouille = Idiot (literally, ‘a sausage’) 

Vegetables (that all happen to go quite nicely with a burger): 

Un concombre = Cucumber              

La salade = Lettuce   

Une tomate = Tomato 

Un oignon = Onion. 

London’s Gherkin up close

What are your favourite French words?

And how do you like your burgers – avec cornichons or sans cornichons? 

For more Word of the Week posts, have a look here


One Comment Add yours

  1. Rosie says:

    Funnily enough, this is the one word I learnt specifically so I would know to say “no” in such a situation! I can’t stand gherkins! I never knew that “cornichon” used to mean “idiot”, so thank you for sharing all the additional information 🙂


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