French Terminology

FRENCH PETANQUE TERMINOLOGY adapted from J.L.Widen's collection


(la) Pétanque         From "pieds tanqués" which means “feet tied together” Originally Provençal "ped tanco".

(le) Rond               The throwing circle, traced in the ground or prefabricated.

(une) Mène             An “end”, the part of a complete game played from each new throwing circle.  A match is made up of as many ends as necessary to first arrive at thirteen points.

Pointer                  “To Point” action to roll/lob a boule, in order to stop its movement near to the coch.

(un) Pointeur        A player who specializes in pointing or placing his boules as close as possible to the coch.

(un) Milieu                An all-rounder in a team that can point or shoot equally well.

(un) Tireur               A player who is better at shooting than pointing.

(l') Arbitre             The Umpire.

(le) Couloir            The shape formed by a group of spectators standing round a game in progress. The word literally means “corridor”

Tête-à-Tête           One player playing against another; a singles game, 3 boules per player.

Doublette               Game composed of 2 players per team, with 3 boules per player.

Triplette                    Game composed of 3 players per team, with 2 boules per player.                      

(le) Cochonnet       The target ball.  The word literally means “little pig”.  Made from wood (or FIPJP accepted synthetic), smaller than a boule, it is thrown at the beginning of each end.   Also known as (le) bouchon; but; gari; let; petit; kiki; pichoun; or jack).

Faire Fanny               “To make Fanny” to win a match with the score of 13-0.

(un) Bras d'or         Literally 'golden arm'.  A compliment given to a good thrower.

(les) Boules Cloutées       The old kind of boules which were made by hammering large-headed nails into boxwood cores.

(le) (les) Striage, Stries   The rings, stripes or design cut into the surface of boules to make them grip the ground better.

(les) Boules Lisses     Boules that have no rings or stripes cut into their surface. Many shooters favour this kind of perfectly smooth boule for an easy release.

(les) Boules Quadrillées Boules that have a large number of stripes or rings cut into their surface. This kind of boule is often favoured by pointers.  They have been nicknamed “pineapples”.

(les) Boules Farcies         Boules that have been tampered with by the injection of either mercury, sand, or heavy oil. This moves their weight off centre and makes them more accurate when pointing. Highly illegal.

(un) Porte-Boules  A carrier for a set of boules.

(un) Gratton          A stone or bump on the piste which deflects an otherwise well thrown/rolled boule.

Boulodrome           An indoor (or outdoor) place specifically designed for playing Petanque.

(le) Terrain            The area where you play petanque.

(les) Lignes Tracées        Pistes which are marked out with lines - often of string.

(la) Piste               That part of the terrain on which the game is to be played.

(les) Kiply             A measuring tape device.

(ou face)               The French for Heads.

(le Pile)                 The French for Tails. 

Composez le pile ou face  Call heads or tails.


(la) Consolante        The competition organized for those that do not qualify for the final rounds of the Main Competition.  

(la) Mêlée              The choosing of teams by drawing lots.

(le) Tirage au sort  French for “'the drawing of lots” and it may, therefore, be heard during a competition with the sense of “making the draw'” ie. to decide which teams are to play each other

Marquer                When it is necessary to pick a boule or coch. up during the progress of a game, it is usual to mark its exact position by drawing 2, 3 or 4 radii from a central mark.

Avoir l’avantage      “To have the advantage” to find yourself with a more boules better placed compared to your adversary.

Avoir le point         “To have the point” to have a ball placed better than that of the adversary, with respect to the coch.

Reprendre le point “Regain the point” your adversary had the point, but you manage to regain it with the following throw.

Defendre le point   “Defend the point” defend a well-placed boule while hitting the adversary’s boule which is placed better.

Holding                      A team is said to be holding for as long as their boule is closest to the coch.

Push the Boule        When a boule which is located in front of the coch, is “pushed” or moved, either on purpose or accidentally by another boule.

Jouer pour la gagne         “To play for the win” you have in hand the boules to arrive at thirteen and to win the match.

(la) Poussette        Either when the coch. or boule is pushed forward or when an opponent's boule is used to bounce your own off towards the coch. “la poussette" is literally the French for “the push chair”.

(le) Pousse-Pousse          Either when the coch. or boule is pushed forward or when an opponent's boule is used to bounce your own off towards the coch. “le pousse-pousse" is literally French for” the rickshaw”.

Ajouter                  “To add” - your adversary does not have any more boules to play. Any boules that remain are yours (or your team’s) and will hopefully be played to enlarge your score.

(la) Revanche        The revenge, a return or second match in a series of three.

(la) Belle               The final and deciding game of three.

(la) Musique             Deliberate distracting behaviour during the playing of a game. This is expressly forbidden by Rule 17 of the rules.

(faire le) Passet      To step out of the throwing circle too early.

Sautée (tirer à la)  To shoot at the boule or the coch. which is behind an obstacle.

Tour de main        (turn of the hand) - the effect given by the turn of the wrist by the shooter or pointer during the throw of the boule.

Serrer (une boule) To impart back-spin to a boule.

Tanquer (sa boule) To throw a boule very high and, at the same time, to spin it.

Tourner (une boule)        To spin a boule so that on landing it moves either to the right or the left.

Partir                    When a thrown boule, rolls too far and fails to make the point.

Appui                    A boule thrown a little too strong, but stopped by another boule.

Bec                        A boule’s path changed in direction by hitting another boule.

Serrer (le jeu)         To point with no hope of scoring but with the intention of hampering the other side so that their score is kept as low as possible.  A defensive move.

Tâter la donnée      Before a throw, to drop a boule on to the intended landing spot in order to get some idea as to how it will behave when thrown there.

(un) Tétard            Literally “a tadpole”, the same as "biberon” which is when a particularly good pointing boule comes to rest actually touching the coch.

Téter                          To succeed in making a "biberon" or "tétard", ie. pointing a boule right up against the coch.

Tourner                  When members of a team change their role, eg. from tireur to pointeur, in the middle of a game.

(le) Cadrage          The method of eliminating some teams/players so the main competition can be run with the more manageable numbers of 16, 32, 64, etc.


Une Donnee              “Landing spot” the exact ideal place where you intend for your boule to land, before it rolls.

Placer                    The action of pointing a boule in the direction of the coch. so it stops as close to it as possible.

Boule derrière        Boule placed behind the coch.   In General, it isn’t a very good placement because other players can point to it.

Boule Devant         The French saying "Boule devant, c'est boule d'argent" (a boule in front is a boule of silver), means that you should always try to keep pointing boules in front of the coch. as here they will always have additional value as obstacles.  

Se melanger             “To mix” to point your boules so as to touch those of the adversary, in front, behind or on the sides.

(le) Pointage          The attempt to place a boule as close as possible to the coch.

Serrer le jeu          “To tighten the play” The few boules which remain are played as defensive boules to limit point losses (or gains to the other team).

un Biberon             When a thrown boule is touching the coch. It is a Biberon (“Baby-Bottle”). You have just made a “bibe” or a "tétard".

Embouchonner      To put a boule up against the coch., (to make a "biberon" baby’s bottle).

Gendarme              French for “policeman” - when one boule is located right next to another (opposing boule) which is next to the coch. - with the appearance that it is watching the boule like a “cop”.

Un contre              “Against” - your shooting boule ends up against the coch. or another boule.

(les) Boules Collées         Boules that are side by side and touching.

(le) Devant-de-Boule       When a boule finishes up in front of and touching an opponent's boule.  This is a particularly effective placement as the opponent risks moving his or her own boule in an attempt to remove it.

(se) Planter              When a boule hits the ground very heavily after a high throw and so digs itself well in. 


(la) Roulette            A way of pointing, only possible on a smooth surface, in which the boule is rolled nearly all the way from the playing circle to the coch.

Bonne Maman          A way of rolling the boule on a very smooth surface in which the player bends forward from the waist and releases the boule near the feet.

Rouler                   To point a ball so that it rolls the total distance between the circle (“Le Rond”) and the coch.

(la)Demi-portee     “Half-Lob” it is to point a boule so that it falls halfway from Le Rond and the coch. and then rolls towards the coch.  

Portee                        To point a boule so that it falls into the last third of the distance between Le Rond and the coch.  The boule will roll very little if done correctly.

(la) Plombee         It is to point the boule with a high lob so that it falls close to the coch.  The forward momentum of the boule is deadened by its fall, immobilizing it at once or almost at once.  Used with rougher ground.

(la) Portée               The more usual name for the pointer's high, backspun lob which is also called "la plombée".

(faire un) Narri       To make a very bad pointage.

(le) Rétro                  The back-spin which is imparted to a pointing boule by swinging the wrist forward during the throwing action.

(la) Roulette-Dirigée        A pointing throw in which the boule is delivered from a semi-crouching position, and guided/rolled nearly all of the way to the coch.

Visser (la boule)                 To point a boule very low and with spin. 


(un) Tir                      A shot aimed at hitting an opponent's boule and, in doing so, removing it.

(le) Tirage                Shooting or trying to knock one boule out of the way with another.

Tirer                           “To Shoot” to strike an opponent’s boule with the goal of removing it from play/threat.

Tirer a la rafle       “To shoot at the edge" the boule arrives at the edge of the piste, but does not touch it (still “live”).

Tirer au fer            “To shoot the iron” The boule is launched in the air, does not touch the ground but comes to land right upon the opponent’s boule.

(un) Carreau            When shooting, the boule scores a perfect direct hit on the target boule and, in doing so, not only knocks it away, but takes its exact position. The origin of the term is thought to have come from the fighting expression "rester carreau" - “to remain on the spot, to be laid out cold."    

Reussir un carreau The perfect shot.  Your boule, by shooting, struck the opponent’s boule, and drove it out and took its place. exactly.

Palet (faire un)      To hit one of the opponent's boules and then stay close to it; to make a carreau.

(un) Palet Courant A poor carreau which, having hit its target, rolls on too much.

(un) Palet Roulant  To hit a target boule by throwing short and rolling onto it.

Reussir un palet     The almost perfect shot (see above) except that the shooting boule moved away a little after the impact, (between 0 and 50 cm behind).

Pointer en tirant     “To point while shooting” it is to make a Carraeu (palet) and get the point at the same time.

Un retro                The opposite of the Palet because the shot boule is moved towards you after the impact.

Faire une sautee    “To do a jump” a delicate shoot because the boule to be dislodged is behind another boule.

Noyer (le but)          To shoot at the coch., and by removing it from the defined piste, nullify the end.

(la) Raspaillette     The more usual name for the kind of shooting throw which lands about 2 or 3 meters from the target boule and then hits it by rolling forward.

(la) Raclette             Another name for "la raspaillette" which is a rolling kind of shot which, instead of hitting the target boule directly from the air.

(un) Rafle                 Much the same as “la raclette” and “la raspaillette" except that it is kept much shorter, lower and sometimes spun.

Tirer a cinquante devant   “To shoot to the front fifty” to insure a shot, the shooter throws the boule so it lands and rolls for 50cm before running up against the boule intended to be hit.

(la) Casquette         When a shooting boule bounces off the top of the target boule without moving it at all.  The word literally means “a cap”.

Faire une casquette         “To make a cap" the shooting boule almost hits the aimed for boule, but only touches it lightly, not moving it.

Chiquer (une boule)           When a shooter just tips the target boule and hardly moves it at all.

Faire un trou         “To make a hole”- it is to shoot and miss the boule(s).  

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