20 interesting country nicknames for France explained (ancient, modern, official & unofficial)

France sign in the forefront with Eiffel tower and French flag in background

Everyone loves nicknames, and France has quite a few. Here’s the low down behind 20 well-known and a few not so well known ancient and modern country nicknames for France, both official and unofficial. 

How do countries earn their Country Nickname?

Not surprisingly, a lot of factors seem to influence the name of a country and the nicknames that are associated with them (geography, climate, wildlife, landscape, religion, history, politics and even stereotypes.)

For example, here are a few county nicknames you may be familiar with.

  1. Thailand – Land of Smiles (stereotype)
  2. Ireland – Emerald Isle (landscape, it’s very lush)
  3. Japan – Land of the Rising Sun (Geography, from China’s perspective, the sun rises east over Japan)
  4. China – The Red Dragon (mythology & politics, red is the colour associated with communism)
  5. Israel – Holy Land (religion)
  6. Italy – The Boot (Shape)
  7. Korea – The Hermit Kingdom (political socio-economic- this country has isolated itself by closing itself off)
  8. The United StatesUncle Sam (marketing)
  9. Canada  – The great white north (geography)

Nicknames & Other Country Names For France (past and present)

France has her fair share of country nicknames too.

Some of France’s other names are endonyms and some are exonyms.

  • An Endonym is a name or nickname used by a group of people to refer to themselves, their country, or their language. 
  • An Exonym is a name or nickname given by other groups of people. 

I’ve pulled together a list of  country nicknames for France used by residents of France, but not well known to foreigners as well as names for France used mainly by people of other nations. I’ve also included ancient names no longer used. 

Let’s get started with other names for France that are used as synonyms.  

1) La France (The France)

La France is a perfect example of an endonym country name for France. 

While the rest of the world calls her “France”, French people call their nation “La France” with the article “LA”. 

As opposed to an exonym which is a name or nickname given by an outsider.

For example, Japan and Spain are both exonyms because it’s not what the Japanese or Spanish call their country. The people of Japan refer to their nation as Nippon and Nihon, and the Spanish refer to their country as España or Reino de España. 

2) Metropolitan France (La France métropolitaine or La Métropole)

Where is France? 

Most people would say that France is in Europe, but in reality, France is a transcontinental country with overseas territories spread across the world on different continents – Oceanie, Antarctica, Africa, South America and even North America.

“Metropolitan France”, also known as “mainland France” and “European France”, refers to the parts of France geographically located in Europe. It does not include any of its overseas territories.

3) The French Republic (La République française or La République)

Metropolitan France and overseas territories

The official name of France is France right? 

Wrong.

It’s actually  “The French republic”. In French it’s “La République Française” but sometimes it’s referred to as simply “La République.”

Before the 1600s, “republic” was used to designate any state that was not an authoritarian regime.

Many other countries also have official names similar to France’s: 

  • Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany)
  • Italy (Republic of Italy). 
  • Ireland (Republic of Ireland)
  • Congo (Republic of Congo)
  • China (Republic of China)

4) L’Hexagone (The Hexogone) 

France map inside of a hectogon shape

While one of Italy’s country nicknames is “the boot” due to its shape, France is often called L’Hexagone (the hexagon). 

The geometrical nickname “Hexagon” refers to the six-sided shape of France. 

5) DROM-COM (formerly known as DOM-TOM)

DROM-COM sounds like a reference to a soap opera, but it’s actually an acronym that refers to all the inhabited territories outside of metropolitan France. In the recent past, they were known as DOM-TOM, which included non-inhabited territories. 

  • DROM stands for “Overseas departments and regions” (Les départements et régions d’outre-mer)
  • COM stands for “overseas collectively” (Collectivité d’outre-mer) 

6) Continental France (La France continental)

Continental France is another way of referring to Metropolitan France or L’hexagone. It’s used to describe the part of France geographically located on the European continent, including the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean. 

Ancient Country names for France

7) Gaul (La Gaule)

Before France became known as France it was called La Gaule. La Gaule can also be used to refer to the people of France 

La Gaule was the ancient Latin nickname Romans gave to the Celtic tribes who lived in the territory that is now modern-day France, parts of western Germany, Belgium, northern Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and even Turkey. These tribes eventually migrated to modern-day Britain and Ireland around 500BC.

Much of northern and central France, are the descendants of the Gauls and there are still native speakers of the language d’oïl in these regions, especially in Brittany and Normandy. 

Gaul means rooster in Latin

The ironic thing about the Latin nickname Gaule is that it was a play on words and was originally meant as a way to make fun of the Celtic tribespeople. 

“Gallus “(inhabitant of Gaul) is the same as the Latin word for rooster or cock. So in essence, the Romans thought it was hilarious that they could call the people in the territory roosters but eventually, the name stuck and the cock became one of France’s most recognized symbols which is called “coq Gaulois” in French.

Pays de Galles (Country of the Gauls) is the French name for Wales and the name “Wales” is from the Latin word Gaule

8) Land of the Franks (Francie)

Have you ever wondered where the name France comes from? 

It comes from Latin “Francia”, which later became “Francie”, and eventually France. Its origins is “Frank”, a Germanic word that means “free”.

France is called something similar in other countries whose language is Latin based. 

For example:

  • Francia in Italian
  • Francia in Spanish
  • França in Portuguese.

Many French names have their origins in this ancient name including the name of the French language in French which is “Français.”

  • Franck: French version of the name Frank
  • François
  • Francine
  • Francis
  • France: (this is a French girl’s name)

9) Kingdom of the Franks / Empire of the Franks (Royaume des Francs)

Empire and Kingdom of the Franks are closely related to the land of the Franks. Technically the empire of the Franks extended from southern France to Eastern Germany. 

Many germanic countries still call France The Kingdom or Emire of the Franks in their languages. 

For example

  • Frankreich : German name for France: (Reich is German for Empire).
  • Frankrijk: Dutch name for France: (Rijk is Dutch for Realm)

10) The eldest daughter of the church (La fille aînée de l’Église)

After Clovis I, king of the Franks, conquered the Roman Empire, he converted to Christianity, and France became the first country to establish Christianity as a state religion. 

11) The Country of human rights (Le pays des droits de l’Homme)

Representation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

Since the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 (Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen), France has often been called the “country of human rights” and sometimes “the fatherland of human rights.” 

This document is one of the most important documents in history because it clearly states that every man on Earth has equal rights. It also mentions separation of power, the right of freedom, right of religion, right of speech and ideas of liberty. Unfortunately, these rights are not mentioned for women or slaves.

The French National Assembly used the United States Declaration of Independence as a model when drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789. Both included Enlightenment principles

Unofficial country nicknames for France

12) Land of wine and cheese

Land of wine and cheese plays on the fact that they are two products that France is well known for producing and exporting. 

13) Land of cheese (le pays du fromage)

A bunch of French cheese in a cheese shop in France: fromagerie

There’s a famous French saying that “there is a different cheese for each day of the year” (Un fromage par jour de l’année).

France produces over 1500 varieties of cheese and is the only country with such a wide range of cheese products exported all over the world.

Switzerland is also known as the land of cheese. 

14) Land of baguettes (le pays de la baguette)

French stereotype and cliches: Baguettes

The baguette is a staple food in France, and despite being a relatively new invention, it’s become as much of the French identity as cheese, wine and gastronomy.

15) La Province

Province is a curious nickname often used to refer to all the regions of France outside of Paris.  This may be why the nickname for the French-speaking province of Canada, is “la belle Province” (the beautiful Province). If you remember you’re history, Quebec and surrounding areas belonged to France and were once called New France (la nouvelle France)? 

16) Inland France (Intérieur or La France d l’intérieur)

Inland France is an expression used by some people who live in the annexed territory of Alsace-Moselle to refer to the rest of France which is inland. 

It’s used less often today but between 1870 and 1918 it was a common way to refer to the rest of France if you lived in Alsace-Moselle. 

17) The big nation (la Grande Nation)

La Grande nation was used as a country nickname for France during Napoleonic times. These days it’s a term used mainly by German-speaking areas. 

18) Sweet France (la Douce France)

The nickname “La Douce France” was made famous by Charles Trenet’s song: Douce France in 1947. Have a listen to to the song below. 

19) The land of Moliere (Le Pays de Molière)

While English is known as the “language of Shakespeare”, French is often called “the language of Molière.”

Land of Moliere is an extension of this expression because it’s filled with people who speak the language of Moliere. 

20) Land of the lights (Le Pays des Lumières)

The Land of Lights isn’t in reference to the Eifel Tower, or the city of lights. It’s a direct reference to the period of Enlightenment. 

Wrapping up Other names and nicknames for France

These are just a few of the most well-known and popular nicknames for France. There are many more known locally, some are pejorative and some are regional. 

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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