Unusual adjectives from French place names

I’ve always been fascinated by the adjectives French creates from place names. Many of them are formed in fairly predictable ways by just adding a suffix to the place name. Examples are parisien (from Paris) and lyonnais (from Lyon). Others are less obvious, and I list some of them in this post.

Well-known places

Table 1 shows some well-known places for which the adjective is derived from the place name by adding a suffix to a slightly modified form of the place name.

PlaceAdjective
Angersangevin
Besançonbisontin
Béziersbiterrois
Biarritzbiarrot
Bloisblésois
Chamonixchamoniard
Chantillycantilien
Le Mansmanceau, mansois
Metzmessin
Monacomonégasque
Montélimarmontilien
Nancynancéien
Poitierspoitevin
Reimsrémois
Saint-Denisdyonisien, saint-dénisien
Saint-Emilionsémélionais
Tourstorangeau
Table 1. Adjectives based on modified names of well-known French places

French uses a German spelling for the place name Metz, but I have only ever heard French speakers pronounce the name [mɛs] as if it were spelled <messe>. So, although the adjectival form messin is slightly irregular in spelling, it is completely regular in pronunciation.

More extensive changes

Table 2 lists some other well-known adjectival forms that differ more dramatically from the related place names.

 PlaceAdjective
Cahorscaducien
Charleville-Mézièrescarolomacérien
Créteilcristolien
Daxdacquois, vascon
Épernaysparnacien
Fontainebleaubellifontain
Île-St-Denisdonisîlien
Île-de-Francefrancilien
Marseillesmarsellais, massilien
Montélimarmontilien
Périgueuxpérigourdin, pétrocorien
Pont L’Évêquepontépiscopien
Le Puysponot, anicien, podot
Saint-Denisdyonisien, saint-dénisien
Saint-Emilionsémélionais
Saint-Étiennestéphanois
Saint-Omeraudomarois
Table 2. Highly unpredictable adjectives based on names of well-known French places

Some of the forms in table 2 reflect changes in the French sound system over the centuries. For instance, modern <é> often corresponds to earlier <es>, <is> or, at the start of a word <s>. So the place names Créteil and Épernay with <é> correspond to adjectives Cristolien and Sparnacien preserving former <is> or <s>.

Some adjectival forms also preserve older versions of the names. An example is carolomacérien (from charleville-Mézières), in which forms such as Carolus are old (Latin, or maybe early French) forms of Charles. Similar, the place name Pont L’Évêque contains the modern word évêque (‘bishop’) and the adjective pontépiscopien reflects the original from derived from Greek (and reflected in English episcopal).

Marseilles was founded as a Greek colony Massilia, and one of the adjectival forms (massilien) still reflects that origin.

Some place names consist of 2 components whose order is reversed in the related adjective. I don’t know whether the reversed order also reflects the order that would have been favoured in Latin or Old French. Examples are bellifontain (from Fontainebleau), donisîlien (from Île-St-Denis) and francilien (from Île-de-France).

Many visitors to Paris will recognise francilien as the brand name for local transport in the Île-de-France region.

Some other places

Table 3 lists some other adjectives whose form is less easily predictable from the related place name.

PlaceAdjective
Bobignybalbynien
Bois-d’Arcyarcynien
Bourgesberruyer
Castelnaudarychaurien
Castifaocaccianinchi
Chilly-Mazarinchiroquois
Elneillibérien
Erquyréginéen
Étables-sur-Mertagarin
Firminyappelou
Houillesovillois
Leoncelcellynois
Luchonbagnérais
Neufchâteaunéocastrien
Pont Bellangertous-loins
Rochechinardsinarupien
Saint-Avoldavoldien, nabarien
Saint-Cloudclodoaldien
Saint-Dizierbragard
Saint-Juste-de-Claixclajussien
Saint-Louisludovicien
Valentigneyboroillot
Ville-aux-damesgynepolitain
Villefranche-sur-Saônecaladois
Table 3. Other unusual adjectives from French place names

Some of these adjectives contain components that are clearly direct translations of components of the French place name:

  • gynepolitain (from Ville-aux-Dames, ‘town of ladies’) is obviously based on Greek gyne (‘woman’) and polis (‘city’).
  • ludovicien is obviously based on Latin (Ludovicus) or perhaps German (Ludwig) forms corresponding to Louis.

I haven’t investigated the reasons for the other forms in table 3.

Some places with similar names

Sometimes, more than one place has the same name. In some cases, although 2 or more places have the same name, they have different adjectives. Table 4 lists some of these forms for various places containing the word bourg

PlaceAdjective
Bourg-en-Bressebressan, burgien
Bourg-la-reinebourg-réginien, reginaborgien
Bourg-lès-Valencebourcain, bourquin
Bourg-Madameguinguettois
Bourg-Saint-Andéolbourgaisain, bourgesan
Bourg-Saint-Mauriceborain
Bourg-sur-Girondebourgeais
Table 4. Adjectives from some French places containing ‘bourg’

Table 5 lists some places having the same name but having different adjectives.

PlaceAdjective
La Celle-Saint-Cloudcellois
Cellé-sur-Brayecelletier
Châteaurenardchâteaurenardais
Château-Renaultrenaudin
Clermont-de-l’Oiseclermontois
Clermont-Ferrandclermontois
Clermont-L’Héraultclermontais
Lisieuxlexovien
Lisonlisonais
Lusignanmélusin
Luxeuil-les-Bainsluxovien
Montigny-en-Cambrésismontignacien
Montigny Le-Bretonneuxigny montais
Montigny Le-Gannelonmontirognon
Neuilly-Plaisancenocéen
Neuilly-sur-Marnenocéen
Neuilly-sur-Seineneuilléen, neuilliste
La Roche-sur-Faronrochois
La Roche-sur-Yonyonnais
Saint-Andréandrésien
Saint-André-en-Royansandroyen
Saint-André-les-vergersdriats
Saint-Étiennestéphanois
Saint-Étienne-du-Rovraystéphanais
Saint-Nicolas-de-Portportois
Saint-Nicolas-en-Forêtnicoforestier
Sainte Mariesamaritain
Saintes-Maries-de-la Mersaintois
Table 5. Different adjectives for French places with the same name

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